Richardton-Taylor-Hebron is moving from 9-man to Class A. Again.
The Raiders are incredibly familiar with the reorganization of classes that occurs every two years. Since 2011, the boys in blue have gone back and forth between 9-man and 11-man football many times, but this will be the first since head coach Seth Forster took over the team in 2017.
Both former 9-man Region 5 powerhouses, New Salem-Almont and Shiloh Christian, are advancing up to Class A Region 4 with the Raiders. As for the rest of the opponents, Forster isn’t sure where his team stands.
“Everybody around the region, the 11-man teams we’re going to play, have lost a lot of players, or they’re looking a lot different,” Forster said. “We’re bringing back some younger players with some talent. To be honest, it’s gonna take a few weeks for us to know what we really have.”
Last year, the Raiders had an incredible core of seniors, leading them to a 6-4 season. Richardton-Taylor-Hebron won a first-round playoff game 44-0 over Divide County before falling to St. John 40-28 the next weekend. That team relied heavily on the running talent of Zach Schmalenberger, and when quarterback Logan Hoff went for the pass, he rarely missed his targets.
Forster said his game plan may look drastically different from last season once he establishes what this group of players is capable of.
“When the coach comes in with a style and makes the kids play his style, I don’t really believe in that because every year your strengths and weaknesses are going to change,” Forster said. “This year, we got some speed and we got some athletic ability. We’re not going to be that big so we’re going to have to game plan around that.”
The speed will manifest through Owen Voigt, who finished sixth in the 300-meter hurdles and 11th in the 400-meter dash at the North Dakota State Track and Field Meet last spring.
Voigt will lineup at wideout on offense and cornerback on defense. Britton Paulson, who saw the field frequently in 2018, will continue to work at receiver and safety. Connor Kuntz, who tied/broke the schools single-game sack record last fall, will also be back, along with senior lineman Skyler Heiser.
“We do have some talent coming back, but there’s two more spots on the field now,” Forster said. “Our depth isn’t there like we had last year. That’s going to be our weak point. We don’t have as many kids out and we’re going 11-man.”
Knowing the depth and size won’t carry over from last year, Forster has established a few basic tasks his team needs to accomplish to be successful against larger teams like Dickinson Trinity and Bowman County.
“We’re gonna have to put some points up and get some turnovers to be successful,” Forster said. “Playing for Coach Biesiot, he always said, ‘Don’t be out-hit and don’t be out-hustled. Everything else will take care of itself.’ We’re gonna put a lot of emphasis on giving everything we have.”