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Win and in

The North Dakota High School Activities Association eliminated the Class AAA football playoff play-in game last year. That doesn't mean it's completely gone though. Tonight's game between Dickinson High and Mandan will determine the West Region's No.

Dickinson High senior receiver Nate Moody
Press Photo by Dustin Monke Dickinson High senior receiver Nate Moody, right, avoids a tackle attempt by Fargo South senior Tyler Pich on Oct. 15 during a game at the Badlands Activities Center. The Midgets are one win away from the Class AAA playoffs. They are also a loss away from seeing their season end. Dickinson visits Mandan at 6 p.m. MDT today in a game to determine the West's No. 4 seed.

The North Dakota High School Activities Association eliminated the Class AAA football playoff play-in game last year.

That doesn't mean it's completely gone though.

Tonight's game between Dickinson High and Mandan will determine the West Region's No. 4 and final playoff seed. The winner visits East Region champion West Fargo on Oct. 30 in the Class AAA quarterfinals.

The loser's season is over.

"It's do or die," Dickinson senior receiver/safety Nate Moody said. "We win, we get in. We don't, we're done."

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It's an intriguing matchup, too.

Both teams have lost two in a row and have striking differences.

The Braves (4-4, 2-3 West) boast the West's top passing game, led by quarterback Devin Coyle and receiver Aaron Janz.

The fifth-ranked Midgets (4-4, 3-2 West) have the West's best pass defense -- allowing just 82.5 yards a game through the air -- and second-best defense, allowing 243.5 yards a game.

"The focus for the week has been that we have to have big stops," Dickinson High head coach Dennis Morris said.

Coyle has thrown for 1,039 yards and 11 touchdowns this season while Janz leads the West with 697 yards receiving.

"If they don't hit the deep ball, we'll be alright," Dickinson senior defensive lineman Levi Keck said.

Controlling Mandan's ground game will be important too.

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The Braves have one of the state's top running backs in senior Billy Binstock, who has rushed for 1,082 yards this season.

"They have a very powerful, dangerous type of offense," Morris said. "We're going to have to keep track of a couple kids."

Against common opponents, Dickinson has looked much better. At least on paper.

Against Bismarck Century, Bismarck High and Minot High, which have clinched the West's other three playoff spots -- though their order won't be determined until after tonight's games -- Dickinson is 1-2 and allowed just 14.3 points a game.

Mandan is 0-3 and gave up an average of 47.3 points a game against those teams.

Morris said scoring points early against Mandan will be the key to any success Dickinson will have tonight.

The Midgets have been streaky offensively this season, averaging just 17 points and 287.5 yards a game.

However, they have shown the quick-strike ability Mandan has struggled against.

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Most of that revolves around Moody, who has 1,002 all-purpose yards and 11 touchdowns. The 6-foot-3 go-to player has caught 36 passes for 553 yards and 10 TD.

"If we don't go out and throw the first punch, and get down early, that could be a negative from the get-go," Morris said.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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