DAKOTA BOWL: South a big obstacle
FARGO - If being 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 320 pounds isn't enough to get him noticed, Austin Richard went further for a Halloween party. He dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz. Richard wore a wig, a blue polka-dot dress, makeup and red-pain...
FARGO - If being 6 feet, 4 inches tall and 320 pounds isn't enough to get him noticed, Austin Richard went further for a Halloween party.
He dressed as Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.
Richard wore a wig, a blue polka-dot dress, makeup and red-painted shoes sprinkled with glitter.
"It wasn't a pretty sight," the Fargo South offensive left tackle said. "It was gross; anything for some comedy."
He and his fellow offensive linemen are just as scary on the football field. They average 265 pounds per man.
Richard - along with left guard Austen Ellenson, center Brent Finley, right guard Jared Wald and right tackle Jordan Vadnais - are the foundation for an offense that averages 44.6 points and 449.7 yards per game.
Top-ranked South (11-0) plays No. 2-ranked Minot (10-1) at 6:30 tonight for the North Dakota Class AAA state football title in Grand Forks' Alerus Center. The Bruins beat Minot 40-0 on the road in the season opener.
"I wouldn't want to be put on a different line," Vadnais said.
"They are a tight group," South coach Kevin Feeney added. "That is a credit to them and they spend a lot of time together off the football field."
All five got Mohawk haircuts for the title game. Most of the line dressed as Wizard of Oz characters for Halloween along with Richard.
Vadnais went as the Wicked Witch. Wald was the Cowardly Lion. Finley was supposed to be the Tin Man, but he got sick. He was replaced by Elliott McCloud, a backup lineman. Ellenson was a Power Ranger.
Richard said the group first considered having Wald go as Dorothy. But in the end, Richard was given the honor.
"We thought having the big man being Dorothy would be pretty funny," Wald said.
"I kind of got talked into it," Richard said. "At first, we thought Jared would be a funny Dorothy because he has a beard."
South quarterback Brandon Larson said it's no joke when he has the 1,325 pounds of mass lined up in front of him during a game.
"Going up to the line every play, they kind of give me a comfort," the 6-foot, 186-pound Larson said. "I have a lot of faith in them."
Vadnais (6-4, 305) and Richard are massive bookends and punishing drive blockers.
"Pancakes, that is my favorite," Vadnais said, referring to a block that knocks a defender on his back. "It's just the feeling you get after the block."
The relatively smaller Ellenson (6-1, 205) and Wald (5-9, 220) do their damage pulling and blocking on the perimeter. Finley (6-1, 275) is a force in the middle.
"Those guys are all funny and they joke around all the time," Larson said. "When it comes game time, those guys buckle up and they are fierce and ready to play."
The linemen are grateful South is loaded with talent behind them. Wing backs Catlin Solum, Billy Sholl and Josh Horner all have the speed to make big plays on each touch. Fullback Joey Dawson is a quick and powerful runner between the tackles. Larson is athletic with a strong and accurate arm.
"They set us up for the blocks really well," Richard said. "We just have to execute. They hit it so fast we don't have to hold blocks as long as other people do."
A three-year starter, Richard is a Division-I prospect. However, Feeney thinks the entire group has the ability to play beyond high school.
"I think every one of them could play college football at some level," Feeney said. "They are a tough group of kids. It's going to be an offensive line that is going to be missed."