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Killdeer Cowboys, Heart River Cougars prep for Friday’s clash

In Class 1A's Region 4, Killdeer and Heart River are two of the three teams to have won their first game of region play last week, along with Hazen.

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Killdeer junior quarterback Alex Sadowsky calls out a play at the line of scrimmage during the Cowboys' game against Dickinson Trinity Aug. 25 at the Biesiot Activities Center. (Parker Cotton / The Dickinson Press)

In Class 1A’s Region 4, Killdeer and Heart River are two of the three teams to have won their first game of region play last week, along with Hazen.

Heart River broke through in the win column last Friday with a 13-6 overtime victory against Southern McLean, a promising sign for a Cougars team that opened the year with three straight losses. Killdeer, on the other hand, is 3-1 overall and riding a three-game winning streak following a season-opening loss.

Both teams seem to have recently found what works and what doesn’t, setting up a vital matchup at 6 p.m. Friday in Killdeer.

“The kids are ready to play those region games. They played well in the two non-region games against the Class A opponents up north,” said Cowboys head coach Lou Dobitz, referring to Des Lacs-Burlington (a 25-12 win) and Lewis & Clark-Our Redeemers (40-13). “We were prepared for those games, but even more so now, we have to be ready to play good games. It’s a boost that we won our first (region) game, but we know we have good teams to play against. We have to be ready every week.”

Heart River (1-3, 1-0 Region 4) first-year head coach Jamie Wyant said his team looked more comfortable last week, and he thought some of the minute aspects of the game appeared to be more polished.

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“I think the first couple games, they were just thinking so much,” Wyant said. “Friday night, they figured they were going to score and find a way to pull this out. I think through the adversity and some turnovers, our kids stepped up and made some plays on defense, and that was a positive step for us. It was nice to see something we hadn’t seen before.”

Senior Cougars wide receiver Dion Madler, who caught a 26-yard touchdown against Southern McLean, said the team played its most complete game of the year.

“It felt good, and I think it got all the guys going for this week,” he said. “We just put four quarters together finally. … I think we have things figured out now. We just need to build on it.”

Dobitz said that Heart River’s record is not indicative of the talented players it has.

“They have explosive athletes in Madler and Zane Besler,” Dobitz said. “And their quarterback Trace Jacobson is a good passer. We expect a team that flies around - they always do. They always play us very tough.”

Dobitz will look to utilize his own playmakers, though.

Senior Dillan Jepson, after not playing in the loss to Dickinson Trinity because of a sprained ankle, has returned to rush for 491 yards and eight touchdowns in the last three games.

“He’s just one of the kids that are doing really well,” Dobitz said. “He’s a strong runner, and he’s fast. He’s got a lot of experience doing different things, he just hasn’t been much of a running back in the past.”

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After transitioning from more of a wide receiver-tight end position on offense, Jepson has quickly proved he can be considered a capable running back, as well.

“Our offensive line has stepped it up. They’re doing so great, and having Dillan back is great also,” junior quarterback Alex Sadowsky said. “It’s a morale booster for our team, seeing him out there. … He’s really used to running with the ball already. He’s such a versatile player. I knew he wouldn’t have a problem with it.”

Sadowsky, to his own credit, has also grown more accustomed to his role as a first-year quarterback.

“In that first game, he had a lot of things to learn,” Dobitz said, “but he’s been really maturing throughout every game. He’s really soaking in the things we’re trying to teach him.”

Sadowsky added: “I feel a lot more comfortable in the pocket already. When I started, I was a little skittish, I was going too fast, but now I’m taking my time and it’s really helping me.”

Wyant said his Cougars will have to be mindful of Killdeer’s improved ground game while also making ball security more of a priority.

“They’re a physical team and their backs run hard. It’ll be a challenge to bring guys down with one guy, so we have to make sure we get everybody to the football,” Wyant said. “Offensively, we just have to get better at what we do and not turn the ball over. The first four games, I don’t know how many times we turned the ball over, but it’s more than I would like. We just have to preach consistency on offense and make plays when we have the opportunity.”

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