Cowboys overcome QB Kulish's injury, follow Rohr in rout of Velva
After the starting lineups were announced, Killdeer immediately found itself in a predicament.
Senior quarterback Christian Kulish injured his ankle making a chest bump during the starting lineups, thrusting freshman Hayes LeMieux into the starting spotlight.
LeMieux, in his first varsity start, helped Killdeer defeat Velva 43-14 in the first round of the Class 1A football playoffs on Saturday at the Biesiot Activities Center.
"He (LeMieux) was really under control," Killdeer head coach Lou Dobitz said. "He was smooth and he didn't have to pressure anything. We did the small things well."
LeMieux didn't have to stand in the spotlight alone -- he was accompanied by a senior-laden offensive line and sophomore wide receiver Trenton Rohr.
"We have a lot kids that stepped up big this week," said Rohr, who had five carries for 153 yards and two touchdowns. "We practiced hard all week for this and it all came together at the perfect time."
Varsity offensive snaps for LeMieux were limited during the regular season, because he was the starting quarterback on junior varsity. He admitted there were a couple nerves at the start.
"I just wanted to keep calm, cool and collected," he said. "I had a little bit of jitters, but it all went away after the first couple plays."
Velva, the No. 3-seed in Region 3, had its own quarterback predicament.
Drew Effertz, the Aggies' starter, broke his collarbone during the team's 32-6 win against Garrison-Max last week. Velva named junior Chris Peterson as the starter and head coach Larry Sandy was impressed with his performance.
"I thought Chris did a really nice job for us," Sandy said. "He put the ball out there in pretty catchable positions most of the time."
The Cowboys, the No. 2-seed in Region 4, trailed after the first quarter and for a majority of the second quarter. But in a span of less than four minutes, Killdeer (7-3) scored three unanswered touchdowns to take a 24-6 halftime lead.
Rohr, who had been quiet for a large part of the first half, had two key punt returns. The first brought the ball down to the Velva 17-yard line, which sophomore running back Lewis Dobitz turned into a 17-yard touchdown run one play later. The second was a 60-yard punt return for a touchdown with 3 minutes, 32 seconds left in the second quarter.
"After halftime, we just wanted to keep the momentum up, keep our offense going and play solid on defense," LeMieux said.
Each facet of the game -- offense, defense and special teams -- was working for the Cowboys.
"I'm excited for the kids," Lou Dobitz said. "The kids played hard and made big, huge plays."
Velva (4-5), however, did have some explosive plays in the first half that resulted in a touchdown. Peterson completed passes to Brad Dean and Kiel Were for 64 and 46 yards, respectively. Taylor Barstad scored on a 1-yard TD run the play after Peterson's hookup with Dean.
"That first quarter we had some opportunities that we didn't turn into points," Sandy said. "In the playoffs, you have to turn those opportunities into points."
The Cowboys didn't slow down as the rain came down and the second half started. Rohr knocked out two long touchdown runs in the third quarter, going for 53 and 75 yards.
"I know everybody preaches about our line and how good of a job they do. It's because they are," Rohr said. "They work every week, every day in practice. Our running backs just find the holes and we run through them. You could drive trucks through the holes our line creates. It's crazy."
LeMieux went 6 of 7 for 48 yards and one touchdown. The freshman quarterback added 12 carries for 53 yards. He connected with Calum Blankenship four times for 25 yards, including a 15-yard TD in the second quarter.
"I felt pretty comfortable passing," LeMieux said. "We throw the ball around a lot during practice, after practice and before practice. Those guys are all just awesome."
Peterson was 8 of 21 for 211 yards and one touchdown. He connected with Michael Thingstad in the third quarter for a 40-yard TD.
The Cowboys led every offensive category except for passing yards.
Killdeer had 406 total yards, including 358 yards rushing. Lewis Dobitz had a team-high 14 carries for 91 yards and two TDs.
"(Sophomore leading rusher) John Knopik isn't quite healthy yet and he gave us three straight weeks of solid running," Lou Dobitz said. "Lewis Dobitz wasn't healthy until the Heart River game. We had all sorts of guys contributing and they are all now able to help contribute as certain times. It's a bonus for us, so we don't have to rely on one or two guys."
Lou Dobitz, the rest of the coaching staff and the players are going to cherish this victory before the biggest test of the season traveling to No. 1-ranked Stanley-Powers Lake next Saturday in the Class 1A quarterfinals.
"We are just looking forward to playing another week," Dobitz said.
Velva 6 0 8 0 -- 14
Killdeer 0 24 12 0 -- 36
V-Taylor Barstad 1 run (kick failed), 1:05
K-Lewis Dobitz 17 run (Trenton Rohr run), 5:22
K-Rohr 60 punt return (Riley Rhode run), 3:32
K-Calum Blankenship 15 pass from Hayes LeMieux (LeMieux run), 1:09
K-Rohr 54 run (kick failed), 7:49
K-Rohr 75 run (run failed), 2:45
V-Michael Thingstad 40 pass from Chris Peterson (Thingstad pass from Peterson), 2:27
K-Dobitz 11 run (Brock Pittsley kick), 7:00
RUSHING: V, Barstad 6-17, Robert Wible 3-12, Shad Vedaa 1-12, Kiel Were 2-5, Isaac Effertz 2-3, Thingstad 3-1, Nathan Schmaltz 3-1, Brady Engebretson 1-(minus 2), Peterson 5-(minus 7). K, Rohr 5-143, Dobitz 14-91, LeMieux 12-53, Blankenship 3-45, Rohde 5-13, Tuff Kling 1-7, Dillon Haman 1-4, John Knopik 1-2.
PASSING: V, Peterson 8-21-1, 211; Engebretson 0-2-0, 0. K, LeMieux 6-7-0, 48.
RECEIVING: V, Brad Dean 2-73, Werre 2-52, Thingstad 2-46, Barstad 2-40. K, Blankenship 4-25, Rohr 1-14, Brad Hanzel 1-9.