AREA GAMES TO WATCH:<br></br> Defense shines for North Prairie
Davy Zinke has seen a change in playing style with a change in alignments. After Zinke's North Prairie team played in North Dakota's Class A Region 3 the past few seasons, the team moved east this season when it was switched to Region 2. Zinke ha...
Davy Zinke has seen a change in playing style with a change in alignments.
After Zinke's North Prairie team played in North Dakota's Class A Region 3 the past few seasons, the team moved east this season when it was switched to Region 2. Zinke has run into a more offensive approach.
"It seemed like the other region worked a little harder on defense," Zinke said. "I think there's overall more emphasis on offense in this region. It seems like the teams here try more to win by outscoring opponents. There are some really good running backs and young quarterbacks in this region.
"We played with teams like Velva and (defending state champion) Harvey in our region before. You had to be physical to play with them, and play good defense. Playing them has helped us this year."
Strong defense has North Prairie in position to win a region title. The Cougars are 6-0 overall and 5-0 in the region. They control their own destiny -- North Prairie hosts Cavalier on Friday, then closes the regular season by hosting Langdon-Munich on Oct. 16. Cavalier and Langdon-Munich are tied for second with 4-1 records in Region 2 play.
North Prairie has allowed opponents an average of just 7.2 points per game. No opponent has scored more than 12 points in a game. The defense is allowing opponents an average of less than 60 rushing yards per game.
"I think people thought we'd be weak on defense," Zinke said. "We gave up a lot of points last year, and we gave up a lot of big plays. But our defense has been good. It's a team defense -- everybody gets to the ball, and our line has really been dominant.
"I'm a little surprised at how strong our defense has been. But most of these kids are seniors. They've seen a lot of football; that experience helps. And the physical maturity is huge. We're a really physical team."
Blake Nelson, an all-state linebacker in 2008, paces the Cougars with 70 tackles, 15 of them solos. "Blake makes the calls on our defense, and he doesn't just fill the middle of the defense -- he's making tackles sideline to sideline," Zinke said.
The North Prairie 5-2 defense also has a dominant group of linemen -- nose guard Craig Poitra (12 solo tackles, 48 assists), tackles Nic Pfeifer (9-41) and Carl Nelson (8-38) and ends Jeff DeCoteau (15-34) and Jake Miller (16-33). DeCoteau has 10 sacks and Pfeifer three.
The defense also has been opportunistic. North Prairie has 16 takeaways, led by Jon Bush's three interceptions.
North Prairie's offense has been heating up of late, scoring 35 or more points in its last four games. But that doesn't match the offense of Cavalier. The Tornadoes (6-1 overall), led by quarterback Jared Mack and running back Dillon Trosen, average 33.4 points a game. But Cavalier has proven it can play defense, too -- the Tornadoes shut out high-scoring Langdon-Munich 20-0 last Friday.
"They have good athletes and can do a lot of things on offense," Zinke said of Cavalier. "But the big test is their quarterback. He's a big, mobile kid who runs the ball well and throws well."
In other key sporting events in the area this week:
- Thompson at New Rockford-Sheyenne, Friday: The 9-man Region 3 title and playoff seeding could be on the line. New Rockford-Sheyenne leads the region (4-0 region, 5-1 overall). Thompson (4-1, 6-1) is in pursuit, with Lakota-Adams-Edmore (3-1, 6-1) also in the mix. This figures to be a high-scoring game -- New Rockford-Sheyenne has scored 60 or more points in three of its last four games, while Thompson has yet to be held to less than 32 points.
- Fosston at Red Lake County, Friday: Fosston (5-0) leads Section 8A, with Red Lake County (4-1) sitting in second place. Red Lake County's strong rushing attack will challenge a Fosston defense that has allowed only 28 points and shut out its last two opponents.
- Park River/Fordville-Lankin at Grafton, Tuesday: Both teams enter the week undefeated in District 4 play, so the regular-season title likely is on the line.
- North Star at Langdon, Thursday: Both teams enter the week unbeaten in District 8 play, so the winner has the inside track on the regular-season championship. Langdon has been the dominant team, having yet to lose a game in regular-season district matches.
DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .