Cowboys have question marks with linemen
The Killdeer football team is in unfamiliar territory.
“It’s a big concern for us up front,” Killdeer head coach Lou Dobitz said.
For many years, the Cowboys linemen were big, tall and strong. A majority of the time the linemen were the focal point for the offense and defense.
However, the biggest and tallest lineman this season is 6-foot-1, 290-pound senior TJ Moore, who has experienced various injuries since his sophomore year.
The only returning starting lineman is Storm Nies, who is listed at 5-11, 235 pounds. To compile on linemen problems, the Cowboys lost 5-11, 215-pound junior lineman Ryan Karey for the season due to a shoulder injury.
“We are concerned, because we are only returning one offensive lineman that played all the time last year,” said Dobitz, who’s in his 6th year as the head coach. “That’s a big concern. We are trying to make it work. We more or less lost everyone on the offensive line except for (Nies).
“TJ has been at practice. He’ll be able to participate in the scrimmage (on Friday) and hopefully for the rest of the year. We just have to watch out for him, so he can stay healthy.”
Though Killdeer will have to piece together an offensive and defensive line, the skilled positions — for the most part — are returning.
The Cowboys are returning a slate of rushers including starting quarterback senior Trenton Rohr, who posted 855 yards on 95 carries and 17 touchdowns, senior running back Lewis Dobitz and senior fullback John Knopik. Lewis Dobitz finished with 68 carries for 619 yards and 11 touchdowns, while Knopik supplied 320 yards and nine touchdowns.
Rohr was the starting quarterback last season, but Lou Dobitz said the team will also look to 6-4, 160-pound junior Hayes LeMieux to be the signal caller. The junior quarterback helped lead the Cowboys to a playoff win as a freshman. Rohr finished 49 of 103 for 821 yards with six touchdowns.
“We got some guys who can run the football and we got some kids that can catch it too,” Lou Dobitz said. “They understand what’s going on in practice and they understand what they need to do to prepare for games.”
Whether the quarterback is Rohr or LeMieux, their main targets returning are senior wide receiver Tuff Kling and Lewis Dobitz. Kling caught seven passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns, while Lewis Dobitz had 79 yards on seven catches.
Defensively, Lou Dobitz said juniors Zeb Doe and Derek Tabor will play an important part at linebacker. Knopik will take over the middle linebacker position after Calum Blankenship — who is a freshman for the Dickinson State football team — graduated. Knopik finished with 78 tackles, two sacks and one interception.
“Zeb and Derek are both going to end up with two numbers and they’re either going to be in the backfield, on the perimeter or on the line,” Dobitz said. “They’ll both be starters on defense.
“Knopik wants to do a lot and he’s excited. He’s ready to be a big member on the defense.”
The Cowboys finished with a 7-2 record and lost back-to-back games to end the season. The first loss was against eventual two-time defending Class 1A state champion Hazen and Velva during the first round of the playoffs. Killdeer averaged 41 points per game and allowed 12.
Killdeer opens the season against Class 2A rival Dickinson Trinity at 8 p.m. Friday at the Biesiot Activities Center. The Cowboys will make the trip back to the BAC to host Class 1A, Region 4 opponent Heart River as their home field renovation isn’t complete.
“We are expecting some tough games early,” Dobitz said. “Our non-region game is against Trinity and they are a lot better, because they return everybody almost. Up front they are so much better. Then we play Heart River and they are the same way. They return almost everyone and they are so much better up front. We are going to look for some dogfight games early on.”
McGregor is the sports editor of The Dickinson Press. Call him at 701-456-1214 and tweet him @SirRoyal.
Head coach: Lou Dobitz (6th season).
Assistants: Josh Karey, Taylor Bang, Daniel Keer, Andrew DesRosier, Patrick Schlosser.
Last season: 7-2 (lost in the first round of the Class 1A playoffs to Velva).
Returning letterwinners: Trenton Rohr, Sr., 5-10, 150, QB/WR/DB; Tuff Kling, Sr., 6-4, 165, WR/DB; Lewis Dobitz, Sr., 6-0, 165, RB/DB; Tanner Rohde, Sr., 5-8, 140, WR/DB; John Knopik, Sr., 5-10, 160, FB/LB; TJ Moore, Sr., 6-1, 290, OL/DL; Sean Tuhy, Sr., 6-1, 150, WR/DB; Derek Tabor, Jr., 5-9, 160, RB/QB/LB; Hayes LeMieux, Jr., 6-4, 160, WR/QB/DB; Matt Stroh, Jr., 5-9, 280, OL/DL; Hunter Bice, Jr., 5-11, 215, OL/DL; Storm Nies, 5-11, 235, OL/DL; Zeb Doe, Jr., 6-0, 190, FB/LB; Dane Larsen, 5-8, 165, WR/DB; Dillan Jepson, So., 5-11, 180, TE/LB; David Arthur, So., 5-8, 145, QB/DB; Triston Lee, So., 5-8, 150, WR/DB; Christian Fredericks, So., 5-9, 140, RB/DB; Daniel Arthur, 5-8, 175, FB/LB; Ty Truchan, So., 6-0, 175, OL/DL; Patrick Dade, So., 5-9, 155, OL/DL; Hoyt Zander, So., 5-8, 135, WR/DB.
Losses: Calum Blankenship, TE/LB; David Dukart, OL/DL; Lane Gaugler, OL/DL; Cody Johnson, WR/LB; Tucker Beck, WR/DB; Dillan Haman, OL/DL; Chance Lundberg, OL/LB; Blake Carbaugh, RB/DB; Matt Kukla, RB/DB.