Room to improve
No football team that took part in Friday’s Minot State Scrimmage Day came away feeling like it was in mid-season form.
But a state title wasn’t on the line during the friendly exhibitions and that wasn’t what the event was about. Instead, it was about seeing where teams needed the most improvement before the regular season begins next week.
Minot High was the lone Class AAA representative – per usual – but squared off against stiff competition in two-time defending Class A state champion Hazen and fellow Class A foe Rugby. Magicians coach Barry Holmen said Hazen was a great test for his inexperienced line.
“I think we learn a lot about kids and how confident they are in knowing their responsibilities,” he said. “I felt like going against Hazen right off the bat was really good because they play a real physical style of ball and it’s a wake-up call right away for our O-line and D-line.”
Hazen’s defensive front challenged Minot early, limiting the Magicians to seven yards on their opening drive. Minot regrouped and scored on their final two possessions. Junior quarterback Ben Bolinske threw a pair of 15-yard completions to classmate Braydon Lund, the second a screen pass going for a touchdown, on Minot’s second drive.
“I think we’re looking good,” Lund said. “We have a lot to improve on and we’re looking forward to it. It’s going to be a fun year.”
Minot’s defense shut down the Bison’s potent rushing attack, not allowing a run past five yards. Connor Doll was limited to 4-of-10 passing and was sacked once.
“Our defense is a little bit ahead of our offense at this point, which is typical this time of the year,” Holmen said. “Overall, pretty pleased, but kids and coaches both realize we have a long way to go to have any kind of success.”
Minot’s O-line imposed its will on its first drive against Rugby. The Magicians ripped off back-to-back runs of 14 and 16 yards, followed by an 18-yard pass and a two-yard touchdown run.
With their first competition against a team other than themselves, the next thing for the Magicians to do is watch the tape and make adjustments.
“We get back together on Monday and we watch film and we learn a lot from what just happened here and then we start game-planning against an opponent,” Holmen said. “That’s what’s different here. You’re not game-planning. You’re not real comfortable against certain fronts, but we have to take a giant step forward if we want to compete at West Fargo.”
Area teams benefit from difficult
Rick Philion didn’t want to come to MSU Scrimmage Day and watch his Hazen team bowl over the opposition. That’s why he was glad to play Minot High in their first scrimmage of the day. The result may not have been what he was looking for out of the two-time defending Class A state champion, but it was necessary to see what areas need improving.
“We saw what we needed to see,” Philion said. “Playing Minot High was really nice because that’s some speed we’re not going to see that often. That’s a darn good offense we saw, a darn good defense we saw. That was nice to play them. That’s a level we’d like to be playing. That’s what this scrimmage is for us, getting someone good and seeing what it takes to play.”
Lewis & Clark-Our Redeemer’s Christian School – Hazen’s second opponent – also saw the value in playing against top-tier talent. Not only did the Bombers play the Bison, they also squared off with Class AA Bishop Ryan.
Both opponents brought different challenges, but Hazen provided the Bombers a look at what a state champion team looks like.
“It’s always beneficial when you get to see a state champion,” L&C-OR coach George Duenas said. “That’s a two-time defending state champ. We see where we compare and see where we need to work at. If you can compete with a champion, you can kind of see where you’re at.”
The Bombers’ defense recorded interceptions in both scrimmages and kept Bishop Ryan’s offense out of the end zone. L&C-OR’s defense sacked Ryan senior Tanner Sanders twice and forced two fumbles.
Sanders’ best moment of the day came in Ryan’s first scrimmage against Des Lacs-Burlington. On the Lions’ final drive, Sanders rolled out, avoided pressure and fired a 30-yard strike to an open receiver for a touchdown.
“He made some progress,” Ryan coach Zach Rudolph said. “We scrimmaged ourselves on Tuesday and he wasn’t as good as I thought he was going to be. Today, he really took control of the huddle better, made better reads. He’s still not quite there, but that’s going to happen and we have to keep working with him.”
Rudolph, like every coach at MSU on Friday, said there’s still work to be done. The regular season begins Tuesday.
Mike Kraft covers Minot High athletics and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @MKraft24_MDN.