Never in doubt
One Mississippi, two Mississippi, three Mississippi, four Mississippi.
The seconds that passed felt like minutes as Minot High sophomore quarterback Ben Bolinske stood in the pocket for what seemed like an eternity.
Then he stepped up and lobbed a jump-ball 29 yards downfield to senior wideout Tre Kinchen in the back-left corner of the end zone. Kinchen came down with the ball just inside the sideline.
“I started out in shotgun,” said Bolinske, who converted 9 of 10 passes for 176 yards. “I had more than enough time to throw it. I saw Tre open on the left side. I threw it up to him and he did the work.”
That touchdown on the Magicians’ opening possession was a sign of what was to come during their 48-20 Class AAA state quarterfinal win over Grand Forks Red River on Friday night at Duane Carlson Stadium.
MHS (9-1), which scored the game’s first 48 points, advanced to a semifinal matchup Friday at East Region No. 1 seed Fargo South.
The Roughriders ended their season with a 5-5 record.
“We were real pleased with (the quick start),” MHS coach Barry Holmen said. “We didn’t expect that type of game.”
Kinchen, a 5-foot-8, 140-pound senior, hauled in four balls for 108 yards. His second catch – on a left-to-right post route – went for a 61-yard score on the Magicians’ second possession.
Bolinske, again benefiting from superb pass protection, put the ball right on the money 40 yards downfield and Kinchen waltzed in the rest of the way.
The Magicians’ offensive line – Andrew Arnold, Joey Rensvold, Spencer Brekhus, Ian Hyde and Kyle Routledge – kept pressure off Bolinske all night, and when the Roughriders dipped linebackers into pass coverage, senior backs Kolton Larson and Brady Lampert went to work.
“When they defended the pass – they left only five in the box a couple times – that’s when we were able to run up the middle successfully,” Holmen said.
Following Kinchen’s touchdown receptions, Larson picked up yardage in big chunks, with runs of 22 and 17 yards to set up easy scores.
Lampert, the beneficiary of those set-ups, scored the next four Magi touchdowns, which totaled a combined five yards.
Holmen said when it’s that close to the goal line, he doesn’t care who scores; he simply wants to punch it in.
“When we got down close, we went double-tight and that’s what we like to do,” Holmen said. “We’re just going to hand it off and try to get the ball in.”
Larson finally found the end zone early in the third quarter when he picked off Red River quarterback Chad Bartosh and returned it 30 yards.
“We know they got really good skill guys and they got speed and they showed that tonight,” Red River coach Vyrn Muir said. “And then we couldn’t really get anything started on offense, either. We didn’t do anything to help ourselves.”
Holmen sent in his reserves midway through the third quarter to rest his starters.
Bartosh passed for 158 of his 176 yards against the MHS second string.
In the fourth quarter, he found Christian Hansen for a 7-yard score. He also accounted for the Roughriders’ other touchdowbs with 43- and 3-yard carries.
The Magicians have a full plate with Fargo South looming next week. The Bruins topped Jamestown 41-16 Friday.
“They have one of the best tailbacks in the state (James Johannesson), bar none,” Holmen said, “and a very good, big offensive line, so we’ll have our hands full there.”
Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.