Heart attackBELFIELD — Shortly before the Heart River football team began settling into their warm-up routines at Tuesday afternoon’s practice, assistant coach Mike Williams huddled the Cougars together to let them know their secret was out.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
BELFIELD — Shortly before the Heart River football team began settling into their warm-up routines at Tuesday afternoon’s practice, assistant coach Mike Williams huddled the Cougars together to let them know their secret was out.
It is only two weeks into the North Dakota high school football season and Heart River has already made a name for itself as one of the state’s most surprising teams. Today, they’re ranked No. 4 in the Class 1A poll.
Using a brilliant double-wing rushing attack, the Cougars have outscored their first two opponents 102-13.
Williams informed the team that opposing defenses are going to know exactly what’s coming at them now — and that the Cougars need to do exactly what they’ve been doing, with a few exceptions.
“We’ve just got to do little tweaks in our offense,” junior running back Seth Ewoniuk said. “They (opposing teams) just watch us on tape and they think they can guess which play we’re going to run. But we’re going to hope that’s not going to happen.”
Ewoniuk, all 5-foot-8, 135 pounds of him, has been the leader of Heart River’s ground game. He has rushed for 347 yards and seven touchdowns on 33 carries, an average of 10.5 yards each time he touches the ball.
He’s only the tip of the sword, too.
Junior running back Cole Hecker, who is about 5-8 and 140 pounds, has gained 247 yards on 18 carries and punched in five touchdowns. He averages 13.7 yards per carry.
Senior fullback Jordan Strecker, who at 6-2 and 215 pounds is fourth-largest player on the team’s Spartan-esque roster, has rumbled for 222 yards and a pair of touchdowns at an outstanding 15.9 yards per carry.
“It’s not that hard to run smaller kids over,” Strecker said with a laugh.
Combined, they have rushed for 816 yards and 14 touchdowns two victories, in a 39-6 season-opening win over Watford City and a 63-7 victory at Southern McLean in their Class 1A, Region 4 opener.
“It’s an awesome feeling for Jordan to pound the defense and wear them down, and then Hecker and I just use our speed and get the outside because they’re already watching Strecker,” Ewoniuk said.
With a veteran backfield — all three running backs and senior quarterback Jarek Haverluk are returning starters — Heart River head coach Dave Hendrickson has been able to expand the Cougars’ playbook a bit.
“Their attitude is absolutely excellent,” Hendrickson said. “The neat thing is they pick things up. I’m not exaggerating, we’ve tripled our offense just by number of plays and being able to do more. That makes it more difficult on the defenses.”
However, it has also made things more challenging for an offensive line that is learning as it goes, which on this team is breakneck pace.
The Cougars returned only junior Mitch Krebs on the offensive line. He made the switch from guard to center this season.
Krebs is joined by senior J.J. Wilkinson, juniors Riley Obrigewitch and Cole Hlebechuk and sophomore Seth Obritsch.
Wilkinson and Hlebechuk were running backs last season.
“There’s not much glory in being a lineman. You don’t read your name in the paper — and these guys would have been good running backs,” Hendrickson said. “But, they moved into the offensive line with no gripping about it. That was nice.”
They’re also all steadily improving every day, Hendrickson added, saying the Cougars constantly work on blocking.
“The most difficult thing in football is blocking,” he said. “Anybody if you’ve got a little bit of savvy can tackle, and if you’ve got a little bit of speed, you can run and catch the ball. But that’s the thing we’ve got to learn how to do, is block. We spend a lot of time with blocking.”
Blocking will be key when the Cougars host Grant County-Flasher in a Region 4 game at 7 p.m. Friday at the Belfield Football Field.
The Cougars might even throw a little wrinkle into their game plan and get Haverluk, a third-year starter, more involved with the passing game in an effort to overcome the Storm’s large defensive front.
“We’ve got to get that going,” Hendrickson said of the Cougars’ passing game. “If you get eight, nine people inside the box, they’re going to stop our running game. We’ve got to develop a passing game.”