In the state’s two big classes there are two teams that have pulled away from the pack. Bismarck is putting together an epic season. Bismarck has outscored opponents 198-29 in five games this year. Some of those 29 points were given up by the Demon backups. This defense has been downright scary. Bismarck hosts Jamestown and Mandan before their toughest test of the year against Minot to see just how good they are. In class AA Shanley has shown me they are a cut above the rest. They controlled the game against Wahpeton last Friday winning 34-20 with the most balanced attack in the state. Chase Montplaisir doesn’t look like a sophomore when he’s completing ten passes for 223 yards like he did on Friday. Fellow sophomore Danny Stasch does the rest with a workhorse attitude he marched down the field for 150 yards and two touchdowns against a stout Husky defense.
The rest of the state has much more highly contested classes. Class A still has me wondering if my number one team is significantly better than my number five team. Maple Valley Enderlin, Heart River and Larimore join SPL as unbeaten teams. In nine man action some think Wyndmere-Lidgerwood is the best, I've disagreed all season that North Star is the tightest team in the state. They’ve put up 244 points in five games with Jacob Hagler’s surgeon like efficiency throwing the ball. Hagler has already tossed 21 touchdowns. They will get their toughest regular season test in two weeks against unbeaten TGU to see where they stand in the class landscape.
Let’s dissect the top two match ups
1. Divide County (6-0) at Shiloh Christian (6-0)
Last year when these two teams met it was the toughest test of the season for the upstart Shiloh Christian team. Divide County won 56-14 on their way to an undefeated regular season. Shiloh Christian Head Coach Funnon Barker believes this year will be a different animal,
“We are going into this game with a lot more confidence and healthier than last year. Last year we were missing two of our starting offensive and defensive lineman, which against divide is significant. They are still a lot bigger than us but our players believe they can compete with them. we also have more team speed this year.”
One of Divide county’s co-head coaches Nate Nelson doesn’t believe last year will have anything to do with Friday night’s battle,
“This is a new year, even though many of our players were on last years team this is a new group and a new team. The 2011 game is in the past and will have no bearing on this years game as we are a new team, as is Shiloh. Sometimes we recieve attention from the media based on our finish last year, but this is a new year and a new team.”
Divide County looks to run the ball with Isaac Jacobs and can also use quarterback Lance Knudson to make plays. But their line is the reason they’ve been such a dominant team.
“The linemen never receive enough attention and credit,” said Nelson. The Divide County offensive line of Tyler Kroshus, Ethan Feil, Ethan Gjovig, Matt Evan, Travis Binde, and Chase Jacobsen are the reason they are such a strong favorite.
Defensively Divide County will use their all-state linebacker Isaac Jacobs and defensive lineman Ethan Feil to try to lead a swarm of tacklers on the Shiloh Christian backfield. Their backfield has rushed for over 2300 yards and 34 touchdowns to date. The Shiloh backfield had new starters at every position but Taylor Crothers at quarterback (the team’s only senior starter) and running backs A.J. Dale and Blake Emmel have been nearly unstoppable.
Look for a great crowd on hand in Bismarck to see a close matchup. I do think Divide will win but this could be much closer than people think. In the end Divide’s line will win the battle and be able to keep up with an awesome Shiloh offense.
2. Minot (5-0) vs. Century (3-2)
Minot has been underwhelming in their perfect start to the season. At first look a 5-0 record with a 164-40 point advantage would look like a terrific start. But their opponents combined record is 6-19 and they haven’t been sharp. Last year their line was the strength of the team this year their star quarterback, Alex Yanosko, is the shining star. Especially in the absence of All-Stater Kolton Larson who is out for the year with a tendon tear. Junior running back Brady Lampert is starting to heat up coming off of a 149 yard game at Fargo Davies. But this team still needs more offense. They are a run-first team that only attempted one pass last week (the 45 mph winds did play a factor though).
Century’s record is underwhelming but they seem to be on the uptick. They have 67 juniors and seniors so they have a lot of depth on the field which is a good thing considering two of their stars Deion Volk and Ryan Gesellchen have been sidelined to injury. Both Volk and Gesellchen are questionable for Friday and may see limited action. Coach Ron Wingenbach gets most excited about the improvement he’s seen on defense,
“We have seen major improvement in our defensive secondary and linebacking crew. We moved All-State corner, Drew Wiseman, to Free Safety and it has been an adjustment which allows us to get more speed on the field.”
Despite poor tackling from time to time Century’s defense seems to be ready to make a big step up. They gave up too many points early in the season to Fargo South and recently to Bismarck but will be able to rebound down the stretch.
This game will give one team the inside track to a home playoff game and the number two seed in the West. A lot of eyes will be on the Yanosko versus Century defense matchup. My gut tells me that Minot will be able to pull this one out by finding some much needed offense and shutting down the Patriots running game.