CUSHMAN CLASSIC XIII: Grand Forks high school football rivalry features differing styles

Will Grand Forks Red River be able to spread it out, or will Grand Forks Central grind it out? That's the fundamental question surrounding the 13th annual Cushman Classic, which begins at 7 tonight at Cushman Field. Central (2-2) and Red River (3...

Will Grand Forks Red River be able to spread it out, or will Grand Forks Central grind it out?

That's the fundamental question surrounding the 13th annual Cushman Classic, which begins at 7 tonight at Cushman Field.

Central (2-2) and Red River (3-1) match offenses of contrasting styles. Speed is the strength of the Roughriders, while the Knights rely on power.

"(Central) doesn't have the flat-out speed like we might, but they have big, physical guys that will keep hammering at you," Red River coach Vyrn Muir said.

Central coach Bill Lorenz sees it the same way.


"With the type of athletes each team has, that's the billing. They're quick, and we're more of a grind-it-out team," Lorenz said. "We don't have the sprinters. We have the workhorses."

Those Central workhorses have racked up a region-leading 1,100 yards on the ground. Through four games, Grant Parks has 631 yards and five touchdowns, while fullback Jeremy Zahradka has 201 yards. Parks is averaging 6.6 yards per carry, while Zahradka is averaging 8.0.

Parks is no stranger to the Cushman Classic. After spending most of his sophomore year in a reserve role, Parks got the start against Red River and exploded for 195 rushing yards in the final game of the year.

"Grant ran all over us last year, and we've watched him do that to everybody this year until the Bismarck game . . . but Bismarck is the best team in the state," Muir said. "Jeremy Zahradka runs pretty well, too. Their run game is pretty darn good."

The Central run game has been Red River's Achilles' heel in the Roughriders' seven-year Cushman Classic losing streak. In all seven games, dating back to 2002, Central's featured back has had more than 100 yards in the game. Huge individual rushing performances have dotted the stretch: Parks' 195 yards last season, Jared Gowan's 265 in 2007, Gowan's 204 in 2006, Ryan Chappell's 162 in 2004 and Chappell's 154 in 2003.

"We have to do a good job with gap discipline on defense," Muir said. "We have to get to the ball and tackle well."

Red River's offense, meanwhile, is deep with big-play potential.

Wide receiver Elby Pope has six catches for 146 yards. Of those six catches, five have gone for touchdowns. The athletic, speedy Pope is also a handful on special teams.


"Red River is fast," Lorenz said. "Those kids they have off the track team we have to try to contain. Our biggest challenge is going to be not letting them get off the edge. If they get in the open, they're tough to catch. They like to throw to Pope, and he's dangerous. He's a threat every time he touches the ball."

The Riders' ground attack is also loaded with speed. Tyler Gefroh, Ben Prout and Chris Waind are Red River's leading rushers.

"They have a nice combination there," Lorenz said. "With Prout, they try to get him to the outside. But you still have to respect Gefroh up the middle. We're going to have to do our best to contain their big plays."

This year's Cushman Classic marks the first conference game for both teams. With a newly reclassified East Region, which consists of only six teams, every conference game has added meaning.

"In the past, there was that play-in game for the playoffs between the four and five seed," Lorenz said. "They don't have that anymore. It's just the top four that go to the postseason. That makes every conference game very important."

EGF Senior High at Perham

East Grand Forks Senior High's offense has been hit-and-miss this season.

When the Green Wave travel to Perham at 7 tonight, Senior High will need the best version of its offense to show.


Perham is 3-0 and ranked fifth in the latest Minnesota Class AAA poll.

Senior High quarterback Darrin Hager suffered a back injury late in the first half in last week's 29-0 loss to Pequot Lakes. Backup Ryan Osowski completed one pass for 2 yards as Hager's replacement.

Perham is led by 6-foot-7 quarterback Ben Bucholz, who passed for more than 150 yards in an 18-7 win over Senior High last season.

Kittson County Central

at EGF Sacred Heart

Like Senior High, East Grand Forks Sacred Heart will get a shot at a state-ranked team at 7 tonight.

The Eagles, though, will be facing the No. 1 team in the state. Kittson County Central, the defending section champions, are ranked first in Minnesota 9-man.

The Bearcats are 3-0, while Sacred Heart is 1-2.

Miller reports on sports. Reach him at (701) 780-1121; (800) 477-6572, ext. 121; or send e-mail to .

If you go

What: Cushman Classic, Grand Forks Red River vs. Grand Forks Central.

When: 7 tonight.

Where: Cushman Field.

Records: Central 2-2, Red River 3-1.

Of note: Red River is the home team so fans will be in west bleachers. . . . Mary Paukert, a former Central teacher and coach, will represent Central as the honorary bell ringer. . . . Food court and children's carnival is 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. . . . Central leads the Cushman Classic series 9-3.

Related Topics: PREP SPORTS
Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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