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AREA NOTEBOOK: Prowlers may look to the air a little more

Balance isn't a term often tossed around to describe Thief River Falls football. For years, the Prowlers' offense has featured a heavy dose of rushing, with a few -- usually very few -- passes sprinkled into the mix.

Balance isn't a term often tossed around to describe Thief River Falls football. For years, the Prowlers' offense has featured a heavy dose of rushing, with a few -- usually very few -- passes sprinkled into the mix.

That may be changing.

Thief River Falls opened the season Friday with a 36-12 win against Roseau. No Prowler rushed for 100 yards. But quarterback Zeb Nelson was an efficient 7-of-9 passing for 166 yards and three touchdowns.

That's an aerial outburst for Aric Attig. The third-year head coach has built his offense around the running game, as did his predecessor, long-time coach Jeff Mumm.

"We've been run-dominated probably for the last 20-some years, since Mummer got here," Attig said. "He liked to run the ball a lot. I do, as well.

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"I'm a defensive coach. The longer our offense can hang onto the ball, the better it is for the defense."

The Prowlers came out throwing, with Nelson completing a pass on TRF's first offensive play. His top receivers are Turner Storm, who had three catches for 84 yards, and Jacob Joppru, whose two catches went for 19- and 13-yard touchdowns.

Attig can remember only one 100-yard passing game in each of his first two seasons as head coach.

The pieces are still in place for a quality running game. Fullback Ian Lund rushed for 757 yards last season, Nathaniel Holecek for 549 and TyJuan Brown for 236. And there is an experienced group of run blockers on the line.

But Attig plans to take advantage of both the running and throwing potential.

"We'll still run the ball a lot,'' Attig said. "But we'll throw a little more. We have a nice-throwing quarterback, something we haven't had for awhile. Nelson throws a nice deep ball and he has a nice touch on the short stuff. And Joppru and Storm are two of the better receivers in our conference. They run good routes, have good speed and great hands.

"Those are three of the better athletes on our team. You have to take advantage of that."

Special start for DL

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Devils Lake didn't score a touchdown with its special teams last season. On Friday, the Firebirds had two less than four minutes into the 2013 season.

Bradley Davidson returned the game-opening kickoff against Williston 83 yards for a touchdown. After the Coyotes were forced to punt on their first possession, Davidson returned a punt 76 yards for a TD, giving Devils Lake a 14-0 lead before its offense touched the ball.

Devils Lake went on to a 21-6 win.

"One or two (special teams) touchdowns over a full season might be typical," DL coach Jay Schneider said. "To get two in a game, that's pretty unusual.

"I wouldn't say you can count on those scores. But with Davidson's speed, we always have a chance to take it all the way."

Davidson, a sophomore, finished fifth in the 100 at last spring's Class A state track meet. But it takes more than just speed for special teams to succeed.

"They kicked off to our fastest guy," Schneider said. "Our guys executed and blocked well, Davidson hit the crease and he was gone. It worked just like you set it up.

"On the punt return, we ran a reverse. The wall was set up for Davidson. He got the blocking. And he's pretty fast."

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Johnson to enter hall

The Minnesota Basketball Coaches Association has named four men who will be inducted into the MBCA Hall of Fame this November, including Vern Johnson. The purpose of the MBCA Hall of Fame is to give special recognition to the people of Minnesota who have made significant contributions to promote high school basketball in the state via their achievements and service.

Johnson was head coach at Grygla-Gatzke, then the Goodridge-Grygla co-op team, from 1980 until his retirement at the end of last season. Johnson's teams won eight conference titles and finished second in the Section 8A tournament three times.

Johnson was named Class A coach of the year last season and was Section 8A coach of the year five times. Johnson had a 456-321 career won-loss record in 33 seasons.

Induction ceremonies will be held Nov. 2 at 2 p.m. in Minneapolis. Other inductees will be Laurin Carroll of Luverne, Ken Novak Jr. of Hopkins and Bob Vaughan of Braham.

Northwood dedicates field

Northwood dedicated a new football field last Saturday.

Tyler Field is named after Otto Tyler, who was head football coach at Northwood from 1969-99. Tyler, who died in 2009, led Northwood to its lone state football championship, winning the 9-man title in 1985.

"Otto was a calm, easy-going guy," former Northwood athletic director John Hutchison said. "He was a successful coach. And he was good with the kids, providing a steady influence. I think the kids looked up to him as a person."

Hutchison and Scott Ostlie were co-chairmen for the football field project. Hutchison said the community "felt it was time; that we needed to improve on the field we had. For safety purposes, we needed better lights and more space around the field."

Paint job forces change

Rolette was scheduled to host North Prairie football game last Saturday against Des Lacs-Burlington. A faulty paint job, however, resulted in the game being moved to the field of fellow North Prairie co-op member Rolla.

"They got off by five yards painting their lines across the field from sideline to sideline," Rolla superintendent Kevin Baumgarn said. "They got off at the 10-yard line; they accidentally ran it from the 10 across to the 15. And they kept going and didn't discover the mistake until about the 40. So, instead of straight lines across the field, the lines were at angles.

"They went back and painted it the right way, but then it looked like a bunch of Vs connected across the field. We could have played on the field, but it would have been confusing for officials and players."

The solution was to move the game to Rolla. Rolette will let the grass on the field grow, then mow and paint again. North Prairie flip-flopped games so that Rolette will on Oct. 11 host a game that had been scheduled to be in Rolla.

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

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