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Running strong: Cherwinski leads Dickinson as mainstay running back

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Dickinson High senior running Michael Cherwinski, middle, gets a handoff from junior quarterback Andrew Heckaman, left, during a West Region football game against Jamestown on Saturday at the Biesiot Activities Center.

Michael Cherwinski has seen plenty of time and a ton of snaps in the backfield for the Dickinson High football team.

The senior running back has been playing at the varsity level since he was a freshman.

Aside from a foot injury during his freshman season -- he missed a couple of weeks -- Cherwinski has been the Midgets' mainstay running back.

"It's been really fun," said Cherwinski, who has made the all-West Region team at running back the past two seasons. "It has just been great playing. I went from playing eighth grade to varsity and the pace was so much different. People were just bigger. It was intense."

During Cherwinski's first three years as a member of the varsity team, Dickinson was predominately a run-heavy team and mixed in a few pass plays.

A change in coaching brought a new offensive scheme to the table this season. Instead of the running the power-I or double wing, Dickinson first-year head coach John Tuchscherer implemented a spread offense.

"He's one of those guys that you can always rely on," Tuchscherer said. "He's a leader and he's been since he was a freshman. He has went through it and he knows what it takes to be a successful football player."

Though Cherwinski hasn't been getting as many carries per game as he had in the past, Tuchscherer said it has been great to see his senior running back roll with the changes.

"It's not as much running as we've done in the past and he hasn't said one thing all year," Tuchscherer said. "He shows up and goes to work. That's one of the biggest assets that Michael brings to the team. It would be really easy for him to want more carries and he hasn't complained one time all year. You couldn't ask for a better leader than that."

One area which hasn't changed in the last three years for Cherwinski is his offensive line.

After Cherwinski's freshman year, the rest of his classmates joined him at the varsity level. A majority of the offensive line has been starting since they were sophomores and Cherwinski wouldn't want it any other way.

"I trust them with my life," Cherwinski said. "I wouldn't pick any other guys. They do their best and they play as hard as they can day-in and day-out. I'm glad to have them on my team."

The same can be said for his offensive line.

Chris Sickler, who is also teammates with Cherwinski on Dickinson's wrestling team, said everyone has chemistry with one another.

"He's a good, hard runner and he knows how to make his reads," Sickler said. "He stays focused and he's an all-around good runner. We've played a lot together even back in seventh- and eighth-grade year too."

Tuchscherer said one special facet of Cherwinski's game is his second effort. When a running play looks to be over, Cherwinski can sneak around blockers or shed tackles.

"That goes back to the type of kid he is," Tuchscherer said. "He's not going to give up on anything. There have been a lot of times this year where he goes into the pile and you think the play is over and then all of a sudden out he comes and picks up those extra yards."

Cherwinski's senior season didn't go as planned as Dickinson missed the playoffs after taking a 17-13 loss to Jamestown on Saturday. Cherwinski, who played his first high school game against Jamestown, will play his final high school game against Williston at 7 p.m. at the Biesiot Activities Center.

Nonetheless, Dickinson is playing with pride with Williston coming to town. The Midgets can finish the season with a win and a winning record. The last time Dickinson finished with an above-.500 record was in 2007 when the team ended the season 5-5.

"There not a lot of times that you get to end the season with a victory and a winning record," Tuchscherer said. "We have to chance to do both. We just want to show up Friday and be ready to go, so we can send these seniors off the right way and thank them for all the hard work, dedication and leadership that they've put in through the years."

Since Cherwinski's freshman season, the Midgets have made the playoffs once. They lost 43-7 in the opening round against Fargo South last season. He said it's tough to know his Midgets' football career is over on Friday.

"The feeling that you have that it's your last varsity game in high school is tough," Cherwinski said. "It is a little depressing."

Yet, the lessons Cherwinski has learned over the years he had passed them down to the younger running backs. Michael McChesney, a sophomore running back, has scored two rushing TDs this season and said Cherwinski has been a great role model.

"It has been real good," McChesney said. "He has been a big help during practice. If he notices that we aren't going hard, he will say something and he's a leader. He knows a lot and it is real easy to learn from a guy with four years of varsity experience."