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Raiders set to host playoff action against Divide County

After a year absence, the Richardton-Taylor-Hebron football team is back in the postseason. Finishing third in the Region 5 standings, the Raiders will host Divide County on Saturday, Oct. 13, from John H. Gengler Field in the opening round of th...

Richardton-Taylor-Hebron senior Elijah Vogle looks to race around a pair of Hettinger-Scranton defenders on Friday, Oct. 5, from the John H. Gengler Field. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)
Richardton-Taylor-Hebron senior Elijah Vogle looks to race around a pair of Hettinger-Scranton defenders on Friday, Oct. 5, from the John H. Gengler Field. (Shelby Reardon / The Dickinson Press)

After a year absence, the Richardton-Taylor-Hebron football team is back in the postseason.

Finishing third in the Region 5 standings, the Raiders will host Divide County on Saturday, Oct. 13, from John H. Gengler Field in the opening round of the state 9-man playoffs.

Under second-year head coach Seth Forster, Richardton-Taylor-Hebron enjoyed a four-game regular season turnaround, improving to 5-3 in 2018 after going just 1-7 during its 2017 campaign.

Coming up short in their first seven contests last season by an average of 16 points per game, the Raiders and their turnaround has been particularly gratifying for a hard-working collection of seniors that has experienced waves of success and struggle.

"We have eight seniors on our team and they've had some ups and downs," Forster said. "Two years ago, they had a really good team. Last year, we didn't fare too well. This year, we've played really well at times. ... I would say the seniors are very excited and everyone is very, very excited to have a home playoff game."

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The Raiders won four of their first five games of the season, clinching a playoff spot during that stretch.

However, in the two following weeks, Richardton-Taylor-Hebron was outclassed by regional titans New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin and Shiloh Christian, dropping the games by a combined margin of 94-36.

Behind three touchdowns from senior running back Zach Schmalenberger and a pair of scores from senior fullback Elijah Vogle and senior wide receiver Wyatt Kuhn, the Raiders bounced back with a 52-20 triumph over Hettinger-Scranton in the regular season finale, proving to be vital for the team's morale.

"You always want to be playing your best going into the postseason, to not be trending downward, but trending upward. ... The kids came out and executed through most of that game," Forster said. "I was happy with our effort for sure."

According to Forster, his players' demeanor this week during practice was a solid mixture of putting their best foot forward while enjoying the moment, describing them as "loose" leading up to their clash with the Maroons.

Divide County enters the match-up with a 4-4 record, averaging 25.3 points scored per game while allowing 34.3. By comparison, Richardton-Taylor-Hebron put up 33.8 points per game while relinquishing 29.5. All numbers aside, the Raiders do not intend on taking the Maroons lightly.

"Well, they are a very well-coached team, this isn't the first time we've had to play Divide County," Forster said. "If you're in the playoffs, it doesn't matter who you are playing, they are there for a reason and they must have some good players that are well-coached in order to be in the position that they are at. We going into this thing thinking that it's going to be a dog-fight."

The matchup between the two teams is third time in 11 years that they have locked horns in the opening round of the postseason. In both instances, Richardton-Taylor-Hebron was the road team and Divide County came away with victories. In 2007, the Maroons defeated the Raiders 31-22. Six years later, Divide County cruised to a 34-20 win.

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While Richardton-Taylor-Hebron gets to avoid the three-hour bus ride this time around and play in front of its home crowd, the team is focused on taking the Maroons' best punch.

"No matter whose field it's on, away game, home game, whatever, we got to expect the best out of everybody," Forster said. "I don't expect anything less than a really good, hard-fought game from their end, but also from our end on Saturday."

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