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Heart River Cougars find footing at end of season

BELFIELD -- After entering the season with a new coach, a new defensive coordinator and a whole new offense, Heart River's learning curve has since been considerable.

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Heart River junior quarterback Trace Jacobson looks to throw the ball against Killdeer on Sept. 23 at the Killdeer Athletic Complex. (Parker Cotton / The Dickinson Press)

BELFIELD - After entering the season with a new coach, a new defensive coordinator and a whole new offense, Heart River’s learning curve has since been considerable.

The Cougars, by first-year head coach Jamie Wyant’s own admission, were a little lost to begin the season.

In switching from a Wing T offense to a spread offense, they stumbled early and lost five of their first six games, but turned the season around just in time, winning their final two games to qualify for the postseason.  

Despite the overall record of 3-5, the Cougars enter the playoffs playing their best football of the season and will get a chance to keep the momentum going against Minot Bishop Ryan, the No. 2 seed in Region 3, on Saturday at 7 p.m. Central Time on the campus of Minot State.

“The last couple of games have given us some confidence. That’s always good to head into the playoffs with,” Wyant said. “The kids didn’t really know what to expect, not just from the new scheme part, but they didn’t know what to expect with the new coaches. Now they know what to expect, and I think that’s part of our success the past few games.”  

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Bishop Ryan, which finished the season 7-1, is a relative unknown to the Cougars. The only things Wyant and his team have to base their preparation on is the Lions’ impressive record, their several blowout wins and a couple of game films.

From what Wyant ascertained, the Lions are a run oriented team, they have a big offensive line and they tackle well.

“They’re pretty fundamentally sound on defense,” he said. “Other than that, I really don’t know much.”

The Cougars missed out on the playoffs last season, and the year before lost in the first round.

Quarterback Trace Jacobson, now a junior, remembers that loss well. Given the circumstances surrounding this year’s team, he said nothing would make him happier than an upset win over their first round playoff matchup.

“We’ve come a long way as a team with this new offense. Receivers have been running their routes really well. The line has been giving me time to make my reads, and our running backs have done really well,” Jacobson said. “Not making the playoffs last year, changing the offense, then having a new coach, winning our first game in the playoffs for the first time in a long time, it would mean a lot.”

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