Dickinson area roundup: Midgets and Titans ready for annual doubleheader at BAC
As has been the case once a year since 2010, the Dickinson community has a long night of football to look forward to. On what will be a crisp, chilly evening on Friday, Sept. 28, the Dickinson High football team and its neighbor, Dickinson Trinit...
As has been the case once a year since 2010, the Dickinson community has a long night of football to look forward to.
On what will be a crisp, chilly evening on Friday, Sept. 28, the Dickinson High football team and its neighbor, Dickinson Trinity will both be in action as part of a doubleheader at the Biesiot Activities Center.
"I think it's a special night. Whenever we have a doubleheader like this, it's an opportunity for our high school kids, especially our high school football players to be on a platform that they might not get otherwise," Dickinson Trinity head coach John Odermann said. "You don't get to see Dickinson High and Dickinson Trinity play in the same arena very often, other than track and volleyball. We co-op in a lot of different sports, but when you have a Trinity team and a Dickinson High team playing on the same field on the same night, I think it's a special moment for the city."
The Titans are slotted in the nightcap in what will be a Region 4 tussle against Killdeer, while the Midgets open the proceedings with a difficult challenge as West Fargo Sheyenne makes its maiden voyage to the BAC.
Dickinson High and West Fargo Sheyenne have only lined up against one another twice, but the two programs do have recent history.
In 2015, the Mustangs defeated the Midgets 32-20 in the Class AAA Quarterfinals. Last season, West Fargo Sheyenne earned a 28-0 shutout over Dickinson.
This season, the visitors hailing from the Eastern Dakota Conference are 4-1 and are coming off a 28-0 victory over Fargo North where the offense amassed over 600 yards.
"It's one of those things offensively where they might get a little gain, a little gain, a little gain, but defensively, if you don't do your job one time, then it'll be a big gain," Dickinson High head coach John Tuchscherer said. "We have to be assignment sharp, get eleven guys to the football and make sure that we don't allow (the big plays) to happen."
Last week against the Spartans, the Mustangs running back tandem of junior Nathan Goldade and senior Hunter Hoffner combined for 361 rushing yards while senior quarterback Parker Sander notched for 181 yards through the air and 36 on the ground.
The Mustangs operate out of a read-option look, which undoubtedly puts pressure on every layer of the Midgets' defense to stay alert.
"Gap control on defense is crucial. If you have someone that's assigned to play their gap and they are not playing their gap correctly, that's when you start to see big plays happen," Tuchscherer said. "Specifically with West Fargo Sheyenne, each guy has a responsibility. The inside guys have to take away the dive, your defensive end has to take away the quarterback and your corners and safeties have to take away the pitch. As soon as someone tries to do someone else's' job, that's when they turn a 3-yard play into a 60-yard touchdown."
Dickinson's task doesn't get much easier facing a stingy Mustang defense. Since suffering a 21-14 overtime defeat to Bismarck Century, West Fargo Sheyenne has only allowed 19 total points since.
For Midgets senior wide receiver Jaren Berger, the offense has to give itself a chance.
"We just have to work together as a team and as efficiently as we can because they have obviously, a pretty good defense," Berger said. "We just can't make mistakes. We have a tendency to drive down the field and make a bad mistake right at the end that ruins our momentum. Personally, I have to run my routes hard and block the guy in front of me."
Stafford blooming into a ball hawk
Taking on a larger role on the back end of the Dickinson Trinity defense, junior safety Matthew Stafford said he was nervous entering the season.
But if his play through the first four games of the season is any indication, Stafford appears to have shed those nerves fairly quickly.
Stafford has four of the Titans nine interceptions this season, snagging one during Dickinson Trinity's 38-0 victory over Southern McLean on Friday, Sept. 21.
"My job is to stay over the top, break to the ball if it comes my way and that's what I've been able to do," Stafford said. "I just start to backpedal and read the quarterback. When the ball goes up, I look at the receiver, look for the ball and if it's there, catch it."
Stafford adds that his teammates were instrumental in helping him get prepared for the season. Senior cornerback Kaden Kuntz, junior cornerback Ethan Kudrna and sophomore Cole Fitterer each have an interception this season, joining Stafford as part of a defensive backfield that has helped the Titans defense allow a region-low 11 points per game.
"Matt Stafford is a kid who has four picks on the year and has done a great job developing into a pretty good, solid safety, where he can cover a good amount of the field." Odermann said. "To be able to have a guy back there who can take care of that deep ball is kind of a security blanket as a coach. ... Defense is really about effort and getting yourself in the right position and that's what those guys have done. We've had our letdowns, too with the young guys that we've had there, but for most part, I've been really happy with how our secondary has played this year."
Opposing teams are averaging 78 yards through the air on a completion clip of 37 percent against the Titans.
Odermann partly contributes those numbers to the play of Kuntz, who he calls a "lock-down corner" capable of effectively eliminating one side of the field and giving Stafford, Kudrna, Fitterer and others a chance to make a play of the ball. He adds that his defensive line pressuring the quarterback has been key to his defense slowing down the passing game, and was especially so against Southern McLean.
The Titans will try to replicate that performance against Killdeer, which boasts veteran linemen that serve as the heart of the team.
"Well, they have some big guys upfront and we want to make sure first and foremost that on both sides of the ball, we are winning that battle on the line of scrimmage," Odermann said. "I say that about every game, but I think this is more true in this game than possibly others. They've got some big, experienced guys there that are going to move bodies and we have to ready to face that battle head on and not shrink."