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Grand Forks Central's big-play hopes

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photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald2 / 2

Zane Miller didn't get a single at-bat, much less a base hit, for the Grand Forks Central High School baseball team last spring. Yet he still had an impact, stealing six bases and scoring seven runs in nine games as a courtesy and pinch runner.

Knights football coach Bill Lorenz hopes to use that speed Miller displayed on the baseball diamond as a home-run threat in football.

"Zane's going to be on the field more for us than he was in baseball,'' Lorenz said. "We're hoping that translates into a lot of points. He's fast. He's quick. And Zane's also a shifty runner. Tacklers don't seem to get a lot of clean shots at him.

"We'll run Zane on some sweeps, something we didn't do a lot of last year. We'll get him out for short passes and let him use his abilities to get yards after the catch. And we'll try to get the ball out to Sam (Cherilus) to get him to stretch the field with his speed.''

Central is looking to develop more of a big-play offense with sprinter types like Miller and Cherilus playing more prominent roles to go with returning starting quarterback Zack Murphy.

Miller averaged 15 yards per catch (27 receptions, 404 yards) last season. Cherilus had two catches for 16 yards.

"We went from one offense (last season), switched to the wingback offense, then we switched again,'' Miller said. "It seemed to work, so we're going to build off it and see how it goes this year.''

The offense is centered around Murphy. The senior had a team-leading 629 yards rushing last season (3.1 per-carry average) and was 99-of-179 for 1,040 yards passing.

"Zack has got to be the leader on the offensive side of the ball, (with) the experience he has playing varsity for three seasons and a two-year starter at quarterback,'' Lorenz said.

"Were going to build off him. He's touching the ball every snap and that's by design. He came into his own last year throwing the ball. We know his running style. He's going to get the tough yards. But he has to be able to throw the ball, too, and utilize some of the offensive players we have out on the edge.

Dylan Nelson has also impressed in the backfield, Lorenz said. The Knights are comfortable enough with their players at the skill positions that Jace Carey, last season's second-leading rusher with 192 yards, is being switched from fullback to the offensive line.

"We're a little thin on the line and Jace was a good blocker in the backfield last year,'' said Lorenz, whose team returns regulars Dominic Otto and Griffin Rosell on the offensive line.

Central is coming off a 1-8 season. That one win, a 29-0 win against Fargo North, snapped a 19-game losing streak that dated back to early in the 2014 season.

The losing streak "gets frustrating when you really enjoy winning,'' Murphy said. "You just have to go through it and know that eventually something will click. And so far this year something has been clicking.''