Trinity runs over No. 4 Beulah
On the first play of the fourth quarter, Dickinson Trinity quarterback Aric Knopik faked the handoff to Nathaniel Jilek. While the Beulah defense followed the freshman running back to the right, Knopik went untouched to the left, scoring from 8 yards out.
It served as an exclamation point for the Titans, and it was the final scoring play in Trinity's 21-0 defeat of the No. 4-ranked Miners on Friday at the Biesiot Activities Center.
"We hadn't beat them since 2010, so it was something we wanted to leave a legacy for," Titans senior Noah Sickler said. "I think we did that tonight."
The win guarantees the Titans (5-1, 5-1) a home playoff game this season as one of the top two teams in Class 1A's Region 4.
Beulah (6-1, 5-1) had entered the game unbeaten, but the team's five turnovers (four fumbles, one interception) were uncharacteristic and costly. Most notably, several exchanges from the center to the quarterback were either high or bobbled, leading to busted plays.
"I'm probably embellishing a little bit, but that might be more turnovers than we've had in the last two or three years, total," Miners head coach Jim Dooley said. "There are a lot of factors in that. Our exchanges have been OK this year, but I think their stunting or blitzes were something we were concerned about. We were concerned about getting a block before executing the snap."
After a scoreless first quarter, one of those fumbles led to Trinity's first points. Beulah senior Mikey Morris carried to the left but had the ball poked away, and it was recovered by Trinity senior Sean Volesky, who returned it 10 yards for a touchdown.
"That changed everything," Knopik said of the defensive touchdown. "As soon as we got that score, we knew they were beatable and we knew we could take control of that game."
The kick after was no good, and Trinity led 6-0. More importantly, the Titans were able to settle down.
"In the first quarter, we had a lot of nerves going," Volesky said. "Once we finally got in a groove, we were rolling."
That would be the only scoring of the first half, as Trinity limited the Miners and their misdirection-heavy offense to just 34 yards in the opening two quarters.
"Our scout team did a very, very accurate job of replicating their offense," Volesky said. "They watched a lot of film, more than any other team. That really helped us for today."
Sickler, who caught four passes for 63 yards and also recorded an interception, praised the scout team as well.
"They're the real players of the game," he said. "We had the best practice week every. They gave us a good look."
In the second half, as Beulah's offensive struggles continued, Trinity found an advantage: Sickler was covered heavily, and instead of throwing to him, the Titans lined him up with two other wide receivers on one side of the field and used them as blockers for Knopik to take off running.
"That spread out the field so nicely. Everything was open for me running up the middle," Knopik said.
Knopik was not the only one to benefit. Jilek — serving as the lead back in place of the injured Kaden Kuntz — carried 26 times for 140 yards in the contest. Knopik ended with 113 yards on 16 attempts, and he was 7-of-13 passing for 80 yards.
Midway through the third quarter, Knopik scrambled on several plays in a row, getting the Titans down inside the 10. Jilek rushed three times from there, finishing the drive with a 1-yard rumble with 5 minutes, 34 seconds left in the quarter.
"To have a freshman step into the shoes of a big-time leader on the team and play really well, he answered well," Titans head coach John Odermann said of Jilek.
Knopik's rushing score to open the fourth essentially put the game away. Beulah added 76 yards of offense in the second half, but the Miners were unable to reach the end zone.
Morris finished with 24 yards rushing and senior Derek Ferebee added 16. Ferebee was also 5-of-10 passing for 48 yards and an interception. Senior Tyler Erickson caught two of those passes for 26 yards.
Beulah will look to regroup going into next week against a Bowman County team that is looking to stay in the playoff picture.
"Trinity knows Bowman's a tough team, and they're scrappy and fighting for their playoff lives right now," Dooley said. "We have something to play for. I've kind of known that we had some things that could be exposed. It's hard to convince the kids when you're winning like we have — they kind of hear it but they tune it out. I think they'll pay attention when we watch film this week."
Meanwhile, Trinity has to take care of Garrison-Max (1-6) next week to wrap up the No. 1 seed for the region. Before that, though, the Titans made sure to celebrate this win.
"This feels awesome," Odermann said. "If we take care of business next week, having that conference crown will be even sweeter."
Dickinson Trinity 21, Beulah 0
B 0 0 0 0 — 0
DT 0 6 8 7 — 21
DT — Sean Volesky 10 fumble return (Jacob Kubas kick no good), 10:35
DT — Nathaniel Jilek 1 rush (Aric Knopik run), 5:35
DT — Knopik 8 rush (Kubas kick good), 11:57
RUSHING: B, Mikey Morris 14-24, Derek Ferebee 13-16, Aaron Vallejo 5-12, Tyler Erickson 5-10. DT, Nathaniel Jilek 26-140 1 TD, Aric Knopik 16-113 1 TD.
PASSING: B, Morris 5-10-1 48 yards, Ferebee 0-1-0. DT, Knopik 7-13-0 80 yards.
RECEIVING: B, Erickson 2-26, Tryston Miller 1-17, Ethan Johnson 1-9. DT, Noah Sickler 4-63, Dillan Kovash 2-7, Sean Volesky 1-10.
INTERCEPTIONS: DT, Sickler 1.