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PREP FOOTBALL: Unbeaten St. John is in shutdown mode

For the second straight season, St. John takes an 8-0 record into the North Dakota 9-man football playoffs. The Woodchucks have a veteran group but with a new emphasis this season.

For the second straight season, St. John takes an 8-0 record into the North Dakota 9-man football playoffs. The Woodchucks have a veteran group but with a new emphasis this season.

"We were outscoring people last year," St. John coach Cory Davis said. "This year, we're hanging our hats on defense. We have better overall team speed. That's been a problem for teams, trying to get outside on us. We have nine guys who can get to the ball and make plays. And they don't shy from contact."

St. John hosts Mott-Regent at 2 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the playoffs. The numbers show how the defense has improved for the Woodchucks, who graduated only three starters from last season's team, which was defeated 42-14 by Mott-Regent in the state quarterfinals.

St. John has 454 points so far, up from the 427 it scored in the 2007 regular season. But the team has allowed 63 points compared to 206 after eight games last season.

That defense has been stingy despite giving teams plenty of possessions. St. John has a quick-strike offense. It's ground-oriented game is led by Josh Davis (930 yards rushing, 15.7 per-carry average), Mitch Laducer (861, 17.6), Rick Slater (507, 15.0) and Tyler Bryant (486, 10.8).


"It's been one, two, three plays and we're scoring," Davis said. "It's almost strange. We're winning games where we've only run 30 to 35 offensive plays."

There also is a different drive this season. "We have kids who have been in the playoffs before," Davis said. "Last year was the first time ever for the school to get there. They were happy to be there; it was a historic event for us. But after we lost, it was disheartening. Their goals are higher this year."

Other area teams involved in Saturday's second-round games in the 9-man playoffs include Dakota Prairie, which hosts Oakes at 2:30 p.m., while Lakota will be at Hillsboro at 1:30 p.m.

Familiar A foes

There isn't a lot of mystery between teams in Saturday's first round of the North Dakota Class A 11-man football playoffs.

First-round games are between teams from the same region. In Region 2, Larimore is at Park River/Fordville-Lankin at 1:30 p.m.; the Aggies beat Larimore 36-14 on Oct. 3. And Mayville-Portland-Clifford-Galesburg beat Cavalier 32-20 on Oct. 3; they meet in Mayville at 4:30 p.m.

"You'd like to see how your top four teams would do against another region's top four," PR/F-L coach Rob Scherr said. "If you have a powerhouse region, you have the chance to sweep, like in boys basketball last season, when our district won all four first-round games in the region tournament."

There are positives to the current setup, however.


"I can see why the state does it this way for travel purposes," Scherr said. "It can be quite a long ride if you go out of region.

"And (your region) might be swept in the first round; you never know. This way, two teams from every region are guaranteed of going on to the next round."

In another intra-region game, this one in 3A, North Prairie is at Harvey for a 1:30 p.m. game Saturday.

Underdogs galore

in section semis

There were few upsets in Minnesota area football section quarterfinals. The top four seeds almost all advanced into Saturday's semifinals. Now, recent history says there are definite underdogs in the field.

For instance, Win-E-Mac, the No. 3 seed in Section 6 9-man, plays at No. 2 Ada-Borup, which owns 44-0 and 42-0 wins against the Patriots this season. In semifinal rematches, Kittson County Central beat Clearbrook-Gonvick 45-0, Stephen-Argyle topped Grygla-Goodridge 37-8, Perham beat Warroad 33-0 and Fosston beat Fertile-Beltrami 26-6 in regular-season games.

What's a coach to do?


"It's a tough sell for high school kids," Win-E-Mac coach Jeremy Morgenroth said. "But I bring up examples that I know of. It happened to us in volleyball last year. And when I was playing football in high school at Perham, we were the No. 2 seed my senior year and we got crushed by Fergus Falls, the No. 7 seed. It doesn't always happen like the seeds say it should."

Morgenroth said that, at least for the Patriots, the semifinal game won't be business as usual. "What we did against them wasn't successful before. We'll have to do things differently, mix in some different things. And I think it helps that you play more relaxed when you aren't expected to win."

East goes for

third straight title

Teams from eastern North Dakota have won titles at the last two Class B girls state cross country meets. Three straight will be a tough task.

"I think Rugby and us both have a chance," Griggs County Central coach Rick Anderson said. "New Town is probably a slight favorite. Killdeer is strong, too.

"Usually, there are clear-cut favorites, but I don't think there is one this year. There could be four teams within 11 points of each other. If anybody has a real low score, they'll run away with it. But it will take a super meet for that to happen."

Grafton is defending champion and is led by Nicole Woinarowicz, the state runner-up last year. Griggs County Central won state two seasons ago and finished third last season. The Cougars have five returning state top-40 finishers in Taylor Palmer (ninth), Maggie Moen (10th), Kaia Lunde (31st), Katie Hanson (38th) and Samantha Everson (39th).


To win, Anderson said, "Our top kids will have to perform really well. We have really good balance, and we are pretty strong at the top with Taylor and Maggie. I'm hoping one of them will finish in the top five; they both could do it."

Anderson points to New Town as a big favorite in the B boys division, with Rugby and Lisbon two of its top challengers. Individually, the top area runners in the boys division likely will be Adam Monson of Hatton-Northwood and Oliver Dauphinais of Four Winds.

Heppner bids

for top spot

Moses Heppner made an early splash in Minnesota Section 8A cross country, winning the section meet as a freshman. Since then, only one 8A runner has beaten the Warroad standout -- Kevin Lachowitzer, the 8A champion the last two seasons who, as a senior, led Perham to the state team title last season.

"To go out as a section champion, I think that's important to Moses," Warroad coach Rick McBride said.

"He's the favorite in the section, I would guess. But Sam Stoll from Perham hasn't been too far behind Moses when they've raced. And we haven't run against a couple of the teams in the section."

McBride said Heppner's times have been comparable to last season in about half his races, and faster than a year ago in the others. And that's while struggling early to develop a practice routine.


"It was a little tough for Moses at the start of the year," McBride said. "We graduated the guys who could run with him last year. It's tough to push yourself in practices when nobody is running with you. But our other kids have gotten better. And our team has been doing better, which helps push Moses."

McBride ranks Perham as the favorite in the boys division of the section meet, which will be run Friday in Park Rapids. In the girls division, McBride looks for Staples-Motley and Perham to dominate.

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