Linemen are anchoring Titans

When Dickinson Trinity football coach Randy Gordon described the Titans' offensive line as green heading into this season, he wasn't talking about a lack of varsity experience.

When Dickinson Trinity football coach Randy Gordon described the Titans' offensive line as green heading into this season, he wasn't talking about a lack of varsity experience.

The band of brothers in the trenches was more like triplets separated at birth and scattered across the globe.

"A couple weeks ago, once we got some depth developed, we thought we were going to be OK," Gordon said. "Then we started getting the injury bug."

The battle scars have left Trinity with three transfers - Chris Koffler, Jackson Wandler and Schaan Barth - from the past three years anchoring the offensive line in what has been a challenging season.

The Titans were surprised by Devils Lake at Whitney Stadium, 32-7, to open the season but the biggest losses may have been the players injured that night. The Titans have been without senior running back Kyle Kudrna, senior wide out Marcus Sickler and junior lineman John Barnes.


"If we don't have anymore fatalities or injuries, then I think we'll be back where we were," Gordon said.

Gordon has turned to seniors James Kiedrowski and Barth as not only the leaders of the Titans offensive line, but to the mentors in a huddle of inexperienced sophomores and juniors as well.

"We have to set the tempo because we may not have experiences guys in the backfield. It all starts with us," Barth said. "They see us getting jacked and they get excited and that's what football is all about, getting excited to play."

Barth, standing at 6-foot-2 and 240 pounds, is one of the more experienced linemen, having transferred to Trinity as a sophomore. He made the move in order to join his friends, knowing playing time was not guaranteed.

"It takes time. As a sophomore I didn't play at all," Barth said." After awhile, I was able to get going."

Koffler had a similar experience as Barth after the New England Tigers football team merged with Trinity. Koffler sat much of last season, his first with the Titans, adapting from nine-man to Class AA football.

Like Barth, Koffler was able to dedicate himself to becoming a starting high school lineman this summer.

"I was a little worried at first. We all were," Koffler said. "They were all nice and not like what other people think about Trinity. The New England people were new last year and they took us right in. It's been a good co-op."


Koffler and his New England classmates in turn this season easily welcomed in Wandler who transferred from Dickinson High to Trinity after his junior year.

Transferring to a new school for a senior year - even if it is just down the street - can be stressful. But for Wandler, change is nothing new.

Having started playing football at Hagen Junior High in seventh grade, Wandler had to adapt after his freshman year to the offensive system implemented by new Midgets coach Dave Michaelson.

As for finding friends at Trinity, his mid-year transfer solved that worry.

"They have definitely taken me in with open hands," Wandler said. "We've only gotten closer since I transferred. I didn't know all of them too well. I met a lot of them at basketball games and extra curricular activities."

Wandler has been among the Titans walking wounded this season but has yet to miss a game. He originally sprained his ankle on Sept. 7 at home against Minot Ryan. Gordon expects Wandler to be at 90 percent entering tonight's crucial game at Beulah.

The Miners (3-1 overall, 1-1 West Region) and Titans (2-2, 1-1) sit on the bubble for making the West Region playoffs.

"Other than Minot Ryan, who is pretty much in the top four, the rest of us say we have to beat one of the other top three to get in," Gordon said. "Watford City and Hazen are saying that too. So is Beulah. It certainly isn't over if you lose this one, but it sure is nice to put the pressure on them."


From the offensive lines' perspective, Gordon said his band of brothers in the trenches needs to be more comfortable with their roles. As a result, the penalties, specifically false starts, should reduce significantly, he said.

"We need to stop making the mental mistakes," Barth said. "We need to stop false starting and jumping off sides. We just need to have mental focus."

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