Area high school games to watch this week: Defensive line leads stingy TRF defense
The face of the Thief River Falls football program traditionally has been in the backfield. Through the years, the Prowlers have been perennial section title contenders. And winning ways have been led by a run-oriented offense that always seemed ...
The face of the Thief River Falls football program traditionally has been in the backfield.
Through the years, the Prowlers have been perennial section title contenders. And winning ways have been led by a run-oriented offense that always seemed to come up with a big-play back -- a long list of standouts that includes Wade Chiodo, John Swanson, John Drees, Michael Benedict, Brian Loe, Miles Keefe, Alec Holen, Reid Haviland and Riley Simonson.
However, when Thief River Falls travels to Pequot Lakes on Wednesday for a regular season-closing game, with the winner getting the No. 1 seed in the Section 8AAA playoffs, it's the defensive line leading the way for the Prowlers.
"One opposing coach told us after a game that our defensive linemen are just good-looking athletes," Thief River Falls coach Jeff Mumm said. "I'd agree with that. They're big, lean, physical kids."
Three of the starters are returning regulars from a year ago, tackle Nick Cervantes and ends Cody Wolter and Ben Olson. That trio of seniors is joined by sophomore John Erickson, a transfer from Fosston. "We don't usually play a lot of sophomores. That says something about John's ability," Mumm said.
The Prowlers are 5-2. In their five wins, the defense has held every opponent to less than 15 points.
While the line has anchored the defense, the linemen understand that their role isn't one of glory. Instead, they're making the players behind them better.
"We have the mindset that we're going to plug the holes, take the blockers out of the play and let the linebackers make the tackles," Cervantes said. "We make them look like All-Americans.
"We try to blow up the line and get into the backfield. If the backs are in our way, we'll crush them. We like contact. We feel like we're big hitters."
Physically, it's not an imposing foursome. Cervantes is the heavyweight of the group at 6-feet, 260 pounds. Erickson is 225 pounds, and Wolter and Olson both are 175.
But they have the strength and speed to dominate.
"Cervantes is the anchor of the group," Mumm said. "He's the biggest of the four, and he's so physical. When teams get ready for us, he's the one they have to really prepare for. When he's double-teamed, which often happens, that opens things up for the other guys.
"They're all extremely quick off the ball. That's their forte. They play extremely fast and get into our opponents' backfields a lot. We're an attacking defense. We have speed all over the field that creates a lot of problems for teams."
That Prowlers defense will be challenged by a strong Pequot Lakes backfield. The Patriots are led by running backs Logan Lange and Nolan Michaelson and quarterback Nevin Greer.
"They're a very athletic team,'' Mumm said. "Lange is potentially one of the best tailbacks they've ever had. He's a physical kid who has good speed.''
Pequot Lakes, 6-1, leads Section 8AAA with 76 points. The Prowlers are second with 72 points. The winner of their game gets 12 points and takes over first place; the loser gets six points and will finish either second or third in final standings, depending on how Crookston does in its game Thursday against Roseau.
In other area games to watch this week:
n Carrington at Devils Lake, Wednesday: The No. 1 seed from the Class AA West is on the line. Devils Lake gets the top seed with a win. A Carrington win likely leaves the Cardinals in a tie for first with Bismarck St. Mary's, with the Saints getting the No. 1 seed.
n North Dakota playoffs, Saturday: North Dakota Class A teams are in their first round of the post-season, while 9-man teams will play second-round games.
n Minnesota playoffs, Saturday: The Minnesota playoffs get underway when Section 8 9-man teams play quarterfinal games. Stephen-Argyle is defending state champion, but undefeated Goodridge-Grygla takes the No. 1 seed into the section playoffs.
n North Dakota state meet, Saturday in Jamestown: Several area runners are expected to contend for all-state honors with top-20 finishes. The top-ranked area runners in the final Class B state coaches poll were Taylor Palmer (No. 1) of Griggs County Central in the girls division and Adam Monson (No. 6) of Hatton-Northwood-Thompson in the boys division. Monson won the boys division and Benson County's Alyssa Anderson the girls division in Saturday's East Region meet.
DeVillers reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1128; (800) 477-6572, ext. 128; or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org .