Mott-Regent headed back to FargoMOTT — The seniors on the Mott-Regent boys basketball team were entering the fifth grade when the towns formed a cooperative agreement between their schools.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
MOTT — The seniors on the Mott-Regent boys basketball team were entering the fifth grade when the towns formed a cooperative agreement between their schools.
The first time the group came together on a basketball court the following winter in 2000, everyone who watched them recognized the heights they could one day be capable of reaching.
“The town was motivated toward them when they were fifth- and sixth-graders,” Mott-Regent coach John Butterfield said.
As time passed, the group won junior high championships and competed at a high junior varsity level in both basketball and football.
Finally, last fall, the hard work paid off.
Mott-Regent won the nine-man football state championship – its first state title as a co-op – by defeating undefeated and No. 1-ranked Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter 16-14 at the Fargodome.
Now, the group that hoisted the football title trophy is returning to the same building for the Class B state tournament with hopes of bringing home yet another championship.
“It’s sweet. You were there and you experienced it all. To get to do it again would even be better,” said Mott-Regent senior Jay Grosz, who made a key goal line tackle to secure the football title for the Wildfire. “You look at the pressure you experienced that time, you’re going to relate it this time so much better and know how to deal with it.”
As the postseason wore on, the Wildfire handled pressure brilliantly.
Following a loss to Bowman County in their first district tournament game, the Wildfire won five straight to reach the state tournament and their quarterfinal game against No. 1-ranked and undefeated Watford City (24-0).
It’s a game the Wildfire (20-5) are not expected to win and they couldn’t be happier about that.
“We love knocking off people who are undefeated,” Mott-Regent senior Devan Laufer said. “It’s kind of the same situation (as in football), everybody’s kind of doubting us. ‘We’re going up against Watford City, we’re going to get killed. They made the state tournament, great.’ They don’t expect us to go any further. We’re going to turn some heads at the state tournament.”
As far as the team has come in its eight years together, Mott-Regent wasn’t turning many heads and definitely didn’t look like a team on a path to the state tournament in early January.
After winning the state football title in November, the short break between seasons took a toll on the Wildfire.
“This year, it took a little longer,” Butterfield said. “They talk about football helping. It hindered us early.”
A week into January, the Wildfire were 5-3 and reeling from back-to-back losses against Killdeer and Hazen, who they ironically defeated on consecutive days in the Region 7 tournament.
“I think we’re a lot better team than we were to start the season,” Butterfield said.
Much of that could be owed to the team’s redeveloped chemistry.
Laufer stepped up as a scorer and is averaging a team-high 14.6 points per game while senior point guard Brade Schweitzer settled into his floor leader role.
Schweitzer, who was named District 13 player of the year, averages 9.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 3 steals a game and averages just 1.7 turnovers a game.
Senior forwards Blaise Kautzman and Grosz have taken charge of the interior. Kautzman averages 10.2 points and a team-high 5.6 rebounds. Grosz chips in just 4.5 points and 2.9 rebounds a night and has improved over the course of the season.
Kautzman is excited to get a chance to play in the Fargodome. During the Wildfire’s state championship football game, the 6-foot-1 senior roamed the sidelines after suffering two broken hands during the playoffs.
“It’ll be nice to play without two broken hands,” Kautzman said with a laugh following Mott-Regent’s region championship win over Richardton-Taylor.
Senior Elliot Kirschmann has made the transition from post to shooting guard this season and averages 5.8 points and 4.8 rebounds and 1.9 assists per game.
Several other seniors, including and two sophomores have also found roles coming off the bench.
“I think each and every one of them has stepped up,” Butterfield said. “You look at Brade, he is just smarter. He doesn’t make mistakes.”
While each member of the team is excited to be going to state, Kirschmann may be more thrilled than the rest.
“It’s crazy to think about, I remember talking about it,” Kirschmann said. “Every kid talks about it in elementary and junior high, but it’s crazy to be doing it. I don’t think it quite hit me yet. I just talk about it and I get excited.”