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Emerging from the shadows

Being the teammate, and the little brother, of all-state football player Andrew Grothmann hasn't been a burden for Zach Grothmann. Instead, it's been an incentive. "It's made it easier for me," Zach Grothmann said of being the younger sibling. "I...

Being the teammate, and the little brother, of all-state football player Andrew Grothmann hasn't been a burden for Zach Grothmann.

Instead, it's been an incentive.

"It's made it easier for me," Zach Grothmann said of being the younger sibling. "I've seen the success Andrew has had. I think that's helped to make me work harder."

When Hillsboro hosts Lakota at 1:30 p.m. today in the second round of the North Dakota 9-man high school football playoffs, two players who have emerged this season from the shadows of prominent players figure to be on center stage.

Zach Grothmann is the leading rusher for the 8-1 Hillsboro team in a veer offense that still includes his brother in the backfield. On the other side, sophomore Tate Aronson has stepped in at the tailback spot manned last season by first-team all-stater Lance Johansen and has rushed for more than 1,300 yards.


Speed for Burros

Zach Grothmann rushed for 547 yards in the 2007 season, primarily in a reserve role for the Burros. The top two rushers in Hillsboro's ground-oriented attack were Andrew Grothmann, who had his second straight 1,000-yard season with 1,264 rushing yards, and quarterback Aaron Meyer (906).

With both Meyer and Andrew Grothmann back this season, Zach Grothmann has become the big threat. The junior has gained 1,423 yards, averaging 16.4 per carry. Being the new back on the block has helped him.

"Teams early in the season were scheming their defenses to stop Andrew and Aaron," Hillsboro coach Mark Rerick said. "So most of our reads were going to Zach."

The younger Grothmann responded with several big games, utilizing his speed to be a big-play back, as his per-carry average indicates.

Now, the attention has shifted more to stopping the junior running back. Hillsboro responded by having all three of its backfield starters gain more than 100 yards in its last game. Andrew Grothmann has 889 yards rushing (15.1 per-carry average) and Meyer 636 (7.3 average) this season in an offense that averages 437 rushing yards and 48.7 points per game.

The Grothmann brothers provide an inside-outside combination.

"They have different body structures," Rerick said. "Andrew is about 2 inches taller and 45 pounds heavier than Zach. Andrew is more power. Zach is more of a speed type, a finesse runner. They're both perfectly fit for the positions they play."


And there are times when Zach benefits to being in the shadow of his brother -- like when Andrew is the lead blocker. "That's nice," Zach said. "Andrew is a really good blocker."

The attention Andrew Grothmann has drawn -- he's being recruited by several college football programs, including UND and North Dakota State -- also has benefitted his younger brother.

"Schools come to watch Andrew and Zach is standing out, too," Rerick said. "They (recruiters) are starting to mention Zach to me, too."

Taking advantage

Tate Aronson has proven to be physically ready this season.

A year ago, while Johansen was rushing for 1,782 yards and gaining all-state honors, Aronson was a freshman who got only 12 carries on the Raiders' varsity, gaining 90 yards.

"In all my years of coaching, I've only played probably about three freshmen on the varsity," Lakota coach Joe Harder said. "I don't think they're usually ready physically to be playing against juniors and seniors. But Tate has always been a very good player coming up in his age group. This was his chance."

Now, with Johansen a redshirt freshman football player at Jamestown College, Aronson has responded by rushing for 1,380 yards (7.8 per-carry average) and 14 touchdowns.


Physically, he's still not big at 5-7 and 145 pounds. Nor does he have sprinter speed. But Aronson is shifty.

"Tate sees the field very well," Harder said. "He doesn't have the breakaway speed Lance had. But he's quick. He's broken some big runs. He cuts so well that he makes tacklers miss him."

Aronson started the season sharing the tailback position with senior Derek Novak. About halfway through the season, Aronson became the full-time starter at the position. Derek Novak and his twin brother, Dominic, are the fullbacks. Their blocking has had a lot to do with the emerging success of Aronson, including a 378-yard rushing performance Tuesday in a 22-8 first-round win against Ellendale.

"We don't go anywhere without the fullbacks' blocking," Harder said. "The Novak brothers are very good hitters."

And Aronson has become the focal point of the running game for the 7-3 Raiders.

"Tate's surprised us with the way he's just come on and on this season," Harder said. "I expected him to be a starter. But I didn't envision him running for 1,400 yards."

DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to gdevillers@gfherald.com .

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