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Top of the line: Dickinson High is relying on senior dominate offensive, defensive linemen

Press Photo by Royal McGregor From front to back, Dickinson High senior defensive line of Mitchell Mehrer, Aaron Sayler, Chris Sickler and Blake Vance prepare for a snap against Mandan on Sept. 27 at the Biesiot Activities Center.

The unsung heroes on every football team are the offensive and defensive linemen.

However, ask a running back about racking a ton of yards or a linebacker about pulling down the opposing quarterback for a key sack.

Nearly 10 out of 10 times, the specialty players give credit to the offensive and defensive line.

The Dickinson High football team is no different. For the Midgets' eight seniors who play on both sides of the line, it all starts up front.

"We are a veteran group of guys on both the offensive and defensive line," Dickinson head coach John Tuchscherer said. "Really all the things that we try to do offensively and defensively starts with those guys on both sides of the ball. Offensively, we always want to develop a run game. Defensively, our No. 1 goal is to shut down the run and make a team one dimensional."

Dickinson's eight seniors are Mitchell Mehrer, Aaron Sayler, Chris Sickler, Jordan Wanner, Blake Vance, Tanner Hopfauf, Dayton Borsheim and Jayce Jurgens. For majority of those senior linemen, their varsity starts began as sophomores.

Their sophomore season was far from easy. They took bumps, bruises and finished with a 2-7 record.

"It's a whole different game and we were just thrown into the ring of fire," Mehrer said about starting as sophomores. "We didn't really know what to expect, so we just went along with what the seniors were doing and just took it from there."

Sayler added: "Starting with them since sophomore year helps us with communication. We are all close friends, so that helps too. We knew that it was to take us a while to get everything down and become what we wanted to be. This year we are doing pretty well."

Yet, the Dickinson's senior linemen journey didn't start at the varsity level. Many of them started playing on the same team as seventh-graders.

Needless to say, the Midgets' line has chemistry.

"We just have a really good team bond," Mehrer said. "We just know how to get things done together. We work really well."

The Midgets' run a 4-3 defense, so four of the six seniors are playing many snaps, but the bright side is the playing level is kept at a high level with substitutions.

"It's too bad that you can only have four defensive linemen and five offensive linemen," Tuchscherer said. "We have six or seven guys that we roll in and it's always good to keep those guys up front fresh. Being able to take one of your starters and bring in another guy, the level of play doesn't drop. The intensity level doesn't drop. That's a big key for our football team."

Not only are the Midgets (4-3, 1-3 in the West Region) doing their job keeping opposing teams to 14 points per game, but the defensive line is scoring touchdowns. The defensive line has two touchdowns and the Midgets' defense has a total of four TDs.

The two defensive line touchdowns came from Vance on a 90-yard fumble return against Valley City and Sayler with a 20-yard interception return against Devils Lake.

"It makes it easier for our offense to turn around and put points on the board too," Hopfauf said. "It totally changes the game and it's a lot easier to play. When you can cause a turnover, and then take advantage of it and score. That's just a huge driving factor."

The lineman will be important as Dickinson hosts Jamestown at 1 p.m. today to take the fourth and final playoff spot in the West Region.

Tuchscherer, who played defensive end at Dickinson State, said he always tries to give his players pointers. However, he isn't going to force his players to do things his way.

"I'm always trying to give those guys some tips and things that maybe worked for me, but then again I'm not the same player any of those guys are," he said. "Everyone is a little bit different. Some things work for some guys, some things don't work. It's always going to be different depending on the player. I'm always helping them out, but I'm never going to make them do anything. I always want them to feel comfortable with the things that they are doing."