Cougars look to use speed, quickness to continually build experience
For the last couple of years, Heart River has relied on its speed on the football field.
One area the Cougars don’t have much of this season is experience. After graduating nine seniors from last year; the only returning player with extensive varsity minutes is 5-foot-11, senior guard Tyson Kudrna.
“We are young and inexperienced, so we are just taking it one game at time,” said Pruitt, who is in fifth year as head coach. “We have some good athleticism in our program and it’s going to be one of those years that we are going to have to build.”
Kudrna averaged 10.9 points last year and helped the Cougars win the District 13 championship over Mott-Regent. Heart River averaged 62.8 points per game and allowed — the second least about of points in Region 7 — 45.7. The Cougars ended last season with an 18-6 record and finished fourth in Region 7.
“Tyson is an amazing leader for our program,” Pruitt said. “This is his fourth year in the varsity program. He knows what it takes to get the younger guys up to speed. Tyson is a kid who puts a lot of weight on his shoulders. He’s going to come out every night and going to try to give you his best, but he’s also going to try to get the kids around him to play well too.”
The only two seniors on Heart River’s roster are Kudrna and Paul Hutzenbiler (6-1, forward). The rest of the Cougars’ roster is filled with four juniors, four sophomores and three freshmen.
Pruitt said the juniors of Cade Shypkowski (5-10, guard), Blayne Smith (5-10, guard), Ryley Nygaard (5-9, guard) and Seth Privratsky (6-2, forward) will see plenty of playing time. The sophomore class includes the two centers with Eldon Privratsky (6-3) and Wyatt Fulton (6-5). Cole Olson (6-2, forward) and Seth Keator (5-10, guard) are going to be called upon throughout the season. Pruitt said the three freshmen — Zane Besler (6-1, forward), Joey Wagner (5-9, guard) and Deon Madler (6-0, guard) — might see some varsity minutes.
In the early stages of the season, the Cougars are 0-3 with losses coming against Watford City (54-49) and South Border (60-52) during the regular season. Heart River also lost to Killdeer (55-36) in the opening round of the 43rd annual Roughrider Tournament on Tuesday.
Pruitt said the season is going to be a work in progress as everyone gets acclimated to the varsity level.
“We are going to keep it simple and stick to what we are good at and that’s running it,” he said. “We are going to play a lot of kids and we’re going to see what happens.”
Heart River is hoping everything falls in line before the start of the Region 7 Tournament. With the District 13 and 14 Tournaments eliminated, the postseason has turned into a super-region.
“With the super-region this year, it’s going to make every game exciting,” Pruitt said. “We get to play some teams that we normally don’t see until the regional tournament like Hazen and Beulah. The games during the season are going to make the difference.”