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COLLEGE NOTEBOOK: Pioneers prep for playoffs

The Northland Community and Technical College football team runs an offense labeled 'air-raid,' a pass-heavy style popularized by Texas Tech. But playing in northwest Minnesota in late fall, the Pioneers have learned to embrace offensive balance....

The Northland Community and Technical College football team runs an offense labeled 'air-raid,' a pass-heavy style popularized by Texas Tech.

But playing in northwest Minnesota in late fall, the Pioneers have learned to embrace offensive balance.

The Pioneers, who have put up a division-best total offense of more than 3,000 yards, will open the Minnesota College Athletic Conference playoffs at 3 p.m. Friday against Mesabi Range in Thief River Falls.

Northland (7-2 overall, 4-0 division) beat Mesabi Range last Thursday 34-6 to become MCAC North Division champion. The Pioneers have won at least a share of the North Division title for the past three seasons.

"We're pretty 50-50 rushing and passing," Northland coach Merle Johnson said. "We've moved the ball pretty well as far as offensive stats."

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Northland is averaging more than 425 yards of total offense per game. The division's second-best offense is averaging about 230 yards per game.

The Pioneers have run the air-raid style each of Johnson's three years with the program. The offense was implemented by Stan Bedwell, the team's offensive coordinator two years ago.

"We've taken that and made it ours," Johnson said. "And our offensive line this year has given us opportunities to make plays."

The offense is led by sophomore quarterback Justin Taliaferro, running back Darian Nelson and wide receivers Aaron Doriot and Kade Klasen, a former Northern Freeze standout.

Johnson said the Pioneers have learned to deal with weather conditions and how that could affect Northland's passing game. The team lost earlier this season to Ridgewater in a rain-soaked affair.

"We didn't manage well that day," Johnson said. "From then, we've learned to deal with the weather. They're understanding how to survive it."

DeLaSalle guard opts for UND

The UND men's basketball team has picked up its second known commitment of the 2014 recruiting class.

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DeLaSalle (Minn.) High School senior Geno Crandall, a 5-foot-10 guard, committed to UND on Sunday.

"It seemed to me that they are going to make a point of getting me better as a player and as a person," Crandall told verbalcommits.com. "I just really clicked with (the coaches) from the beginning. The players had nothing but good things to say about any of them."

Crandall joins 6-foot-10 center Bryce Cashman of Missouri as the two commitments for 2014.

Former UND runner Evans qualifies for Olympic trials

Former North Dakota All-American Heidi Evans qualified for the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials on Sunday at the Columbus Marathon.

Evans ran a personal-best time of 2:42.08 to place second in the women's race, meeting the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials 'B' standard in the process. More than 2,400 women took part in Sunday's race.

A four-time All-American, Evans graduated from UND in 2008 after winning the NCAA Division II outdoor national championship in the 1,500 meters. She also garnered All-American honors in the indoor 800 meters and in cross country and was the 2007 North Central Conference Athlete of the Meet.

Evans, a native of Roseau, Minn., was also a four-year letterwinner for the UND volleyball team.

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The date and location of the U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials have yet to be determined.

Briefly

• Football: Mayville State's Dylan Torgerson was named the North Star Athletic Association special teams player of the week. The freshman kicker hit field goals from 21 and 28 yards to lead the Comets to a 35-0 victory over Trinity Bible.

• Men's basketball: Mayville State center Charlton Wilson, of Rahway, N.J., was named to the North Star Athletics Association preseason all-conference team. Jamestown College guard Mark Hoge, of Ironton, Minn., was named NSAA preseason player of the year.

Miller reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1121, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1121 or send e-mail to tmiller@gfherald.com .

Related Topics: COLLEGE FOOTBALLUND SPORTS
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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