Road to redemption

Yes, Minot High twice held second-half leads last Friday in a 28-14 road loss to top-ranked Bismarck High.

Yes, the second-ranked Magicians ran out of answers for BHS stud running back Ricardo Galindo, who rushed for all four of the Demons’ touchdowns, including three unanswered.

Yes, that loss – Minot’s first of the season – still stings.

No, coach Barry Holmen isn’t discouraged by the Magician’s performance in their regular-season finale. In fact, you might say he’s even a bit heartened by it.

“As disappointing as it is to lose, no one’s beaten (Bismarck) for 2 1/2 years,” the ninth-year MHS coach said. “From a coaching point of view, I’ll say this: We took a big step forward, not backward, in the game in how we competed well against that top group there.

“We have to continue to get better these next couple weeks. Hopefully we earn a chance to play again and then if you can find that one more win, maybe you get to play Bismarck again, and wouldn’t that be a lot of fun?”

The path to a potential Dakota Bowl clash with Bismarck begins with another rematch – a Class AAA state quarterfinal contest against East Region No. 3 seed Grand Forks Red River at 7 tonight at Duane Carlson Stadium.

West Region No. 2 seed MHS (8-1 overall, 5-1 region) posted its third straight 40-plus-point outing in a 41-21 win over the Roughriders (5-4, 4-2) on Sept. 27. Since then, both teams have gone 3-1, with Red River’s loss coming against East Region No. 1 seed Fargo South.

“They know us, we know them,” Red River coach Vyrn Muir said. “It’s been a month. Each team has done a few different things since then.

“Back then, we hadn’t played them since 2009. Even though you watch film and scout them, you realize things differently when you’re watching it happen live.”

Red River discovered just how bothersome the Magicians’ fleetness can be.

MHS senior running back Brady Lampert broke loose for four touchdown runs and tallied 118 yards rushing on 19 carries. Through the air, senior Tre Kinchen bothered the Roughrider defense with numerous wide receiver screens, including one for a 35-yard score.

“We did not play well on defense at all,” said Muir, in his 10th season with Red River. “Some of that was on us, but a lot of it was that the Minot kids have speed we don’t have. They got into the open field and we couldn’t catch them.”

Meanwhile, the Magicians’ top-ranked defense perceived that Red River senior dual-threat quarterback Chad Bartosh is worthy of his 2012 second-team all-state dubbing. His two touchdown passes remain the most surrendered to an opposing signal-caller all year.

“They have a pretty good quarterback, a pretty athletic guy,” MHS senior cornerback Josh Pizzo said. “We’ve got to contain him. We’ve got to get more pressure on him and not let him run as much.”

Bartosh extends plays with his legs, which has drawn attention from college coaches, though it’s possible he could end up playing collegiate basketball, instead. The 6-foot-3, 185-pounder has thrown for an East Region-best 1,092 yards and 12 scores this year.

“(University of North Dakota football coach Chris) Mussman asked me how I’d describe (Bartosh) and I didn’t know what to say,” Muir said. “He said, ‘I think he’s clutch.’ That clicked for me. He makes plays for us. When we need something to happen, you know you’ve got a fighting chance with him.”

To have any sort of a fighting chance this go-round, the Roughriders need to slow Minot’s balanced offense, which averages 337.9 yards per game.

With sophomore quarterback Ben Bolinske (82-of-125 passing for 1,128 yards) entering his ninth straight start since senior Alex Yanosko suffered a season-ending knee injury, Holmen said the Magicians’ offense is more diverse than it was a month ago. The 5-11, 161-pound Bolinske protects the ball well (eight touchdowns to one interception), but can do much more than toss simple screen passes.

“I think our passing game has improved a bit,” Holmen said. “I think certainly part of that is our young quarterback getting a full season now under his belt. He’s playing like a veteran kid right now, even though he’s only a sophomore.”

Bolinske is surrounded by experienced players, with seniors accounting for 13 of the Magicians’ 22 starters.

But only a handful received playing time in the school’s most recent playoff win – a 48-21 romp over Devils Lake in the 2011 state quarterfinals. And not one Magician has played a postseason home game. MHS last hosted a playoff game in 2008.

If seeds hold, this will be the Magicians’ final game at Duane Carlson Stadium in 2013. The victor draws a state semifinal matchup with the winner of Fargo South and West Region No. 4 seed Jamestown.

“If it’s going to be our last home game, we want to go out with a big win, for sure,” Lampert said. “That’s our main goal right now.”

Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.