Heading into the final two weeks of the regular season, Grand Forks Red River and Grand Forks Central both are fighting for the potential final spot in the North Dakota Class 11A playoffs.
Red River, 3-4 overall and 2-3 in the EDC, and Central, 2-5 overall and 1-3 in the EDC, make up fifth and sixth place in the conference and currently hold the seventh and ninth seed, respectively, in the QRF rankings. With just two games to go for each side, time is running out to make the eight-team Class A playoff field.
For the Roughriders, they will need to stay on top of their game against a formidable Fargo Shanley squad. Shanley is a Class AA program this season.
“There’s something to play for here, unlike other years,” Red River coach Vyrn Muir said. “That door is still open. That’s where we are at with excitement and controlling our own destiny.”
For the Knights, a tough matchup against Fargo South awaits next week after Friday night's game at Valley City.
“I think Red River has a little upper hand on us, but right now we’re just concerned about the competition ahead of us and putting ourselves in a position for success,” Central coach Bill Lorenz said.
On the outside looking in, Central will undoubtedly need to win both of their final two games to have a chance at the final eighth seed. Going up against Valley City and Fargo South, there is a fair opportunity to make the jump needed to put them in the picture.
Standing in their way will be two mobile quarterbacks that can catch defenses on their heels. Valley City’s Gavin Gerhardt has racked up 413 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground and has been a threat inside the 20.
“We think he’s their most dangerous runner and they are presenting a scheme we haven’t seen all year long so we have to be assignment sharp,” Lorenz said.
Fargo South’s Kolby Nissen presents a bigger challenge through the air, but his 12 interceptions on the year bode well for a Knights team that boasts Bryce Philpot and Jack Simmers defending passes. Each ranks top 10 in the conference in passes defended.
Traveling to Fargo Shanley this week will be the Roughriders. The Deacons, who just beat Central 61-0 this past Friday, can potentially cause some disruption in the playoff picture with their solid play from the trio of running back Aidan DeVine, quarterback Michael Rostberg and wideout Josh Gores.
“Just the fact that we get to play a good football team (is extra motivation). We get a chance to go out there and try and knock them off and feel good about ourselves. We’re going to need our best game and turnovers for sure,” Muir said.
DeVine, who has rushed for 886 yards and nine touchdowns while collecting 441 receiving yards, will be the main point of emphasis for Muir and the coaching staff.
“They’re playing more of a shorter game this year,” he said. “It seems like their offense runs through DeVine and Gores. They’ve got that Shanley swagger. It’s tough to just show up and beat them, you’re going to have to do some stuff.”
Both have a common opponent in Valley City to help get them on their journey. Central will meet with the Hi-Liners on Friday and then Red River will have its turn next week to close out the regular season and perhaps end on the right note to keep them in contention.
The Hi-Liners are 0-4 this year in EDC play, but like any team looking to act as a spoiler at the end of the year, they will be looking to give Central and Red River a trap game.
“Winning cures a lot of ailments and that’s the mindset of our kids. To go out on the road and pick up a win, the kids are excited. We just need to try and sustain that energy,” said Lorenz.
Both Red River and Central will be on the road on Friday, with both games kicking off at 7 p.m.
The prep football weekend, however, begins Thursday night with East Grand Forks Senior High hosting Perham. Both teams are in the mix for the No. 2 seed in Minnesota Section 8AAA.
Also this week, Polk County West will host Reg Lake at Senior High Field on Friday night.