Two years ago, the Dickinson High football team traveled to Mandan and put up a season-high 42 points in a victory over the Braves - its fourth straight in the series.
The Midgets return to the Starion Sports Complex on Friday, Sept. 21, and if they hope to repeat their 2016 success, they will have to slow down the three-headed monster of junior quarterback Dane Carlson, junior wide receiver Elijah Klein and junior running back Austin Frey.
Klein is the leading receiver in the conference with 530 receiving yards. He has made 20 catches this season, four resulting in touchdowns. Carlson is second in the WDA with 807 passing yards while his six touchdown throws are good for a tie atop the conference with Bismarck High quarterback Will Madler. Collecting a pair of scores on the ground, Frey is in the top-10 of league rushers with 208 yards.
"They're a really athletic football team. They have some really good skill position kids," Dickinson High head coach John Tuchscherer said. "Their quarterback does a good job for them. Offensively, they mix in the run and the pass well."
The Braves have amassed 818 yards through the air and 607 yards on the ground, showing versatility within their system. In order to slow their opponent down, the Midgets would like to limit Frey first, in hopes of forcing the Mandan offense into third-and-long.
"We always want to be assignment sharp and play our keys," Tuchscherer said. "I think the biggest thing for us is that we have to make them one-dimensional, be able to control them in the run game and put them in passing situations. I think if we can do that, we can pin our ears back, try to get after the quarterback and hopefully force them into making some mistakes."
If Dickinson can execute part one of its defensive plan, part two will fall into the hands of the Midgets' secondary, which understands that Klein will likely be targeted.
"We know he's going to be getting the ball," Dickinson senior defensive back Brendan Johnson said. "We have to try and just watch him, and if he does get it, we have to get everyone to the ball and tackle."
On the other side of the ball, senior playmaker Morgan Wardner will start his third game at quarterback.
With the ball starting in the hands of their best skill position player and if the offensive line can protect up front, the Midgets may have some big-play potential against a Mandan team that tends to the stack the box and send five, sometimes six players on the blitz.
"He brings an aspect to our offense where we can have our quarterback either throw the ball or run the ball," Tuchscherer said of Wardner. "If we are running some read stuff, he's able to read that and keep it. He's been doing a good job; he throws the ball, he's just a natural leader and the guys have been responding to him the past couple weeks."
Titans look for complete game against Southern McLean
In its 40-6 victory on the road against Heart River, the Dickinson Trinity football team led the Cougars 24-0 at the halftime break.
However, for head coach John Odermann and the rest of the coaching staff, the Titans' work on the field was far from exceptional.
Witnessing 24 minutes of play marred by turnovers, penalties and mistakes, Odermann issued a challenge to his players, who promptly responded.
"I think the thing that impressed me the most was how our kids answered a challenge that we gave them at halftime," Odermann said. "We thought that we played pretty sloppy in the first half. ... We had some things not go our way in the first half and I think it kind of showed not only in our play on the field, but also with how we were acting on the field. We just needed to clean it up, have a more positive attitude and approach to things and remember that the most important play is the next play. I was really proud of our kids in the second half, they kind of put a less-than-stellar first half behind them and were able to execute really well in the third and fourth quarters."
In the third quarter, senior quarterback Aric Knopik reached the end zone with the 30-yard scamper while senior running back Kaden Kuntz ran it in from 52 yards out.
The 40-point output against Heart River is the most scoring the Titans have produced this season. After just two offensive scores in their opening contest Bowman County, Dickinson Trinity has scored nine offensive touchdowns in the two games since. Odermann attributes the team's improved offense to the play of the offensive line.
"I think the biggest improvement has been up front with our offensive line," Odermann said. "We had some young guys there to start, some guys that were maybe a little tentative that first game, but they have really come into their own as offensive lineman and played a little bit more aggressively."
Three of the nine touchdowns over the last two games have come from Kuntz. He hopes that the Titans can maintain their composure for a full 48 minutes as Dickinson Trinity will hit the road and face Southern McLean on Friday night.
"This week, we just have to make sure we keep our heads in the game," Kuntz said. "Last week, we didn't keep our heads, lost our cool and got upset with each other. We just have to limit that this week, come out ready to play and play every play at 100 percent."