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Bigger could be better for Crookston football this season

CROOKSTON--Reluctantly, coach Scott Butt inserted his son into the starting lineup on the Crookston High School football team two years ago. Brady Butt was only an eighth-grader. But he was a 210-pound lineman on a Pirates team that was lacking b...

Crookston's Cade Salentine grabs the ball during practice on Thursday in Crookston, Minn. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)
Crookston's Cade Salentine grabs the ball during practice on Thursday in Crookston, Minn. (Joshua Komer/Grand Forks Herald)

CROOKSTON-Reluctantly, coach Scott Butt inserted his son into the starting lineup on the Crookston High School football team two years ago.

Brady Butt was only an eighth-grader. But he was a 210-pound lineman on a Pirates team that was lacking both depth and size on the line. So he became a rarity-an eighth-grader starting, at both offensive and defensive tackle, on a Minnesota Class AA team.

"We didn't want to do it,'' Scott Butt said. "But looking at our options, from a physicality standpoint, it was something we felt we had to do. He was a big, strong kid and we were awfully small up front.

"And he showed he could compete at our level. He developed into a lineman we could count on.''

Brady Butt is beginning his third season as a starting offensive lineman. He's become a middle linebacker on defense as the size of the Pirates has changed since the 2015 season.

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As an eighth-grader, he was one of six players on the roster who weighed 200 or more pounds. Only two other players weighed as much as 175 pounds.

That size factor has more than doubled. This season's roster has 10 players at 200 or more pounds and another seven who are 175 pounds or more.

"We've had more kids in the weight room. And they're in there a lot,'' Scott Butt said. "That's made a difference in our size and strength. And we have a group of guys who, genetically, are just bigger than the group we had a few years ago.

"We can hold up better. When you're sending a bunch of 165-pounders out there, they wear down. And with this group of bigger, stronger guys, we should definitely open some bigger holes for our backs.''

The blocking unit is expected to consist of center Tim Parr (164 pounds), tight end Blake Fee (218), tackles Brady Butt (216) and Damian Hodgson (177), Jake Wagner (215) at one guard and Jake Davidson (205) or Ben Kostrzewski (165) at the other guard.

The blockers will work in front of some speedy running backs. Mason Wang won the 100 and 200 at the Section 8A track meet last spring. Cade Salentine was runner-up in the 8A 300 hurdles. Salentine rushed for 1,332 yards last season and Wang for 237.

"Having those big bodies on the line moving the other team's' big bodies makes for bigger holes to run through,'' Salentine said. "It makes our job a lot easier.

"I have faith in our linemen being able to create gaps for us.''

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There's bulk on the defensive line with Wagner, Fee, Cam Niemila (254) and Nick Garmen (185).

Those linemen are also athletic. The Crookston coach said almost all of the starting offensive and defensive linemen are multi-sport athletes, several of them competing in three sports.

"Size isn't a guarantee that you'll be better,'' said Scott Butt, whose team is coming off a 2-7 season. "But as a coach you feel better sending out a group of big, athletic kids.''

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