Killdeer QB LeMieux thriving on field and in leadership role

With a few days to spare before the Killdeer football team faces Velva-Sawyer in the semifinals of the Class 1A playoffs, senior center Storm Nies recalled the teams' first-round playoff matchup when he and classmate quarterback Hayes LeMieux wer...

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Killdeer senior quarterback Hayes LeMieux attempts to elude the tackle of Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn sophomore safety Trent Marquart Saturday at the Killdeer Athletic Complex in the Cowboys’ 43-0 win. (Press Photo by Dustin Monke)

With a few days to spare before the Killdeer football team faces Velva-Sawyer in the semifinals of the Class 1A playoffs, senior center Storm Nies recalled the teams’ first-round playoff matchup when he and classmate quarterback Hayes LeMieux were ninth-graders.
“When we were freshmen, the starting quarterback got hurt and he had to play against Velva, and he was nervous as hell,” Nies said.
And now?
“He was a pretty skinny guy back then, but he’s grown into it. He’s a leader,” Nies said. “We’ve been playing together since fifth grade in little league, so I’ve been snapping to Hayes for a long time. He does his job well, always really poised. I can never tell if he’s nervous or not.”
What a difference a couple years make.
“He was very nervous,” Killdeer head coach Lou Dobitz said, “but he came in and played within himself. He wasn’t trying to do anything spectacular. He did his job. I know he was nervous, but he handled it very well.”
LeMieux said there was a key detail missing from the story, though.
“I remember we won, so that was kind of the main thing,” he said. “I was pretty nervous coming into that game as a freshman. Shaking in my boots a little bit, but we made a few plays, and I shook it off.”
LeMieux and the rest of the Cowboys (8-1) are hoping for a repeat performance when they host Velva-Sawyer (8-2), the No. 3 team out of Region 3, at 1 p.m. Saturday at the Killdeer Athletic Complex.
They got off to a good start in the playoffs last week, beating Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn 43-0. Already ahead 13-0 at the start of the second quarter, the lead swelled to 34-0 at halftime thanks to LeMieux’s 10-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Dillan Jepson, an 85-yard interception return for a touchdown from his safety spot and a 4-yard scoring run.
“We couldn’t have had that (interception) without everybody trying,” LeMieux said. “I had my center and a couple of guards from offense and a linebacker down there blocking for me. Getting a few points before half really helped. You could tell from guys on the field and on the sidelines, guys were jacked.”
Those kinds of plays make nerves go away quicker.
“He’s a very smart player. He makes really great decisions,” Dobitz said. “He’s a very strong and fast athlete. He can run the football. We can throw the football. He does a good job of managing the game.”
LeMieux played at wide receiver each of the past three years, switching over to quarterback only after the graduation of Trenton Rohr last season. Dobitz said that transition has been as seamless as hoped. LeMieux has thrown for 13 touchdowns and 716 yards, and he’s rushed for five other scores.
LeMieux shares a high-powered backfield with Jepson, senior running back Derek Tabor and senior fullback Zeb Doe, making for a dangerous quartet on offense.

“We have a lot of weapons,” Nies said. “It’s fun to play with them. Maybe if I miss a block, I know they’ll fight through it. When you have those guys back there, and if you block for them, they’ll make plays for you.”
Dobitz said LeMieux’s importance to the team can also be seen in the secondary, where the team’s two corners, freshman Riley Reiss and sophomore Cole Dukart, and the other safety, junior Hoyt Zander, are all new to varsity this season.
“He’s making calls and making some adjustments that we need in the secondary,” Dobitz said. “Over the course of the year, we’ve seen a lot of improvement from those kids. They’re playing at a high level. They don’t panic when they get a big play made on them. Hayes, he’s a steady guy back there. He doesn’t say a lot, but he doesn’t have to. He does things right and helps guys keep their composure.”
And LeMieux’s defensive responsibilities add even more challenges for a player that already does so much.
“He’s a great tackler, a great defensive player,” Dobitz said. “We can't afford to take him off the field. He’s a great asset for our team on defense. It’s kind of a risk, but we have to have him out there.”
LeMieux seems to thrive with so much responsibility, though. He’s come to embrace the pressure.
“I don’t think I’d have it any other way,” he said. “I think I can speak for any guy on our team when I say we like to be out there on every play and on every down.”
What a difference a couple years make.

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