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Mandan explodes past Knights

Grand Forks Central's Will Eagleson sacks Mandan quarterback Dan Carlson in the first half of their opening game of the season at Cushman Field in Grand Forks Friday. Central's Austin Braun is at left. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald1 / 6
Mandan's Elijah Klein looks back as he runs to the endzone in the first quarter to score against Grand Forks Central Friday in the opening game of the season at Cushman Field in Grand Forks. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 6
Grand Forks Central quarterback Jaxton Lorenz picks up a first down on a 14 yard run in the first half as teammates Cameran Bridgeford (52) and Austin Braun (44) follow with Mandan's Aaron Riopelle during their opening game of the season at Cushman Field in Grand Forks Friday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald3 / 6
Mandan's Olivia Geiger kicks off late in the first half after the Braves scored against Grand Forks Central Friday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald4 / 6
Grand Forks Central's Chance Olson rushes Mandan quarterback Jayce Lowman during their opening game of the season at Cushman Field in Grand Forks Friday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald5 / 6
Grand Forks Central players show team unity on opening night of the season at Cushman Field in Grand Forks Friday. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald6 / 6

Big plays were big trouble for Grand Forks Central.

The Knights couldn't contain the explosive offense of Mandan as the Braves claimed a 41-22 win Friday at Cushman Field in the high school football season opener for both teams.

Mandan accumulated 465 yards in total offense. Six plays in the first half accounted for 301 of those yards, sparking the Braves to a 38-0 halftime lead.

"That's what did us in,'' Central coach Bill Lorenz said. "Their skill-position kids are tough matchups.

"We stressed containing those (big plays) in practice. But it's hard to simulate their size and athleticism in practice.''

The Braves went up 7-0 when Blake Arenz took a pitch from Dane Carlson on an option play and went 62 yards down the right side for the score. "The option isn't our bread and butter,'' Mandan coach Todd Sheldon said. "We don't necessarily expect big plays like that from it.''

Elijah Klein hauled in a 55-yard reception to set up the Braves' next score, a 7-yard run by Austin Frey. The 6-foot-7 Klein made it 21-0 on a 44-yard pass from Carlson.

"That Klein is a tough matchup,'' Lorenz said. "They made big plays with their athleticism. And we helped them out. We had some breakdowns in coverage. It was our inexperience showing at times.''

Mandan scored on two straight possessions on passes to Aaron Riopelle (25 yards from Carlson) and Arenz (65 yards from Jayce Lowman), then another 50-yard Klein catch set up a late field goal and a 31-0 halftime lead.

"We have a few explosive kids,'' Sheldon said. "We maybe didn't expect it as much as this. But we have some special kids at tight end and receiver.

"We wanted to distribute the ball. We struggled running the ball; we've had some injuries on the offensive line. But Carlson's an all-around accurate passer.''

Central made it closer with three scores in the second half. Will Eagleson had TD runs of 31 and two yards sandwiched around a Jaxton Lorenz-to-Maxx Danks scoring pass covering 11 yards.

Eagleson rushed for 74 yards and Braun 46 to lead the Knights, while Jaxton Lorenz passed for 36 yards and rushed for 29. Most of Eagleson's yards came in the second half when he ran out of the quarterback position.

"The kids didn't quit,'' Bill Lorenz said. "Running Eagleson at quarterback gave us a different look. He ran hard, getting yards after contact. We needed a shot in the arm like that.

"Hopefully we can build off it.''

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