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GAME OF THE WEEK: Thompson can clinch a playoff berth if they defeat Cavalier

The Thompson Tommies can move into a tie for first place in Region 2 nine-man football and clinch a playoff berth if they can defeat visiting Cavalier on Friday.

However, that’s a mighty big IF.

Cavalier (6-0, 7-0) has an 18-game winning streak and has outscored opponents this season by a whopping 420-32. Its latest victim was previously undefeated Hatton-Northwood, which fell 44-7 to the defending state champs.

Cavalier also has a lot on the line Friday, in the Herald’s Area Game of the Week. With a win, the Tornadoes will be guaranteed to play at home as long as they survive in the playoffs until the Dakota Bowl, the championship game that will be held on the neutral turf of the Alerus Center.

A Thompson upset likely would mean a three-way tie at the top along with Hatton-Northwood, with head-to-head score differential determining the first and second seeds that earn home field in the first round. The top four teams advance to the playoffs.

“We haven’t clinched a playoff spot yet, so we’re more focused on getting into the playoffs than where we might end up seeded,” Thompson coach Brad Schwab said. “Our goal from Day 1 was to get into the playoffs, so when that gets secured, we start worrying about where the playoff games are going to happen.

“If you look too far down the road, you’re looking for trouble.”

Cavalier is trouble enough. Running back/linebacker Brock Robbins is the centerpiece of the team, with 22 touchdowns, 1,226 rushing yards (13.0 per carry) and 71 tackles, all team highs. Option quarterback Trent Karel is a run-pass threat, including a 10.7 rushing average. As a team, the Tornadoes average 9.4 yards per carry behind an offensive line that averages 235 pounds.

 “Cavalier is a physical team and very disciplined, as they execute their offense with very few penalties and turnovers,” Schwab said. “They have real good athletes.”

Thompson (5-1, 6-1) counters with two main playmakers – sophomore quarterback Calen Schwabe and junior running back Malek Larimer.

 Schwabe has a 70.5 completion percentage with eight passing touchdowns and three via the run. Larimer has rushed for 638 yards (9.2 per carry) and 12 touchdowns.

“They like to get those two athletes in open space because they’re tough to tackle and tough to contain,” Cavalier coach Sandy Laxdal said. “They’ve put up a lot of points and played especially well at home.”

Thompson has only four seniors on its 26-player roster in a sport that typically is senior-driven.

“We know it’s going to be a physical game, so we have to take care of the football and make sure to not help them out,” Schwab said. “We’re going to have to string a lot of good plays together.

“Against some teams, you can get away with mistakes. This is not one of them.”

 Reach Bakken at rbakken@gfherald.com.