GGF prep football preview: Oliver returns to familiar ground

When first-year East Grand Forks Senior High football coach Scott Oliver takes the field tonight, he might be more familiar with the team on the opposite sideline.

When first-year East Grand Forks Senior High football coach Scott Oliver takes the field tonight, he might be more familiar with the team on the opposite sideline.

"I spent seven years in the school district at Roseau," Oliver said. "I had all those kids in class as their elementary phy-ed instructor."

Oliver gained notoriety as the boys hockey coach at Roseau, where he led his team to three state tournaments in six seasons. He'll return to Roseau tonight, leading the Green Wave in a 7 p.m. game against the Rams.

Oliver, who also was a defensive coordinator for the football team at Roseau for five years, admits the matchup will have an unusual feel.

"No question it will be strange," Oliver said.


Oliver's extensive knowledge of the Rams may help in recognizing personnel, but as far as schemes, Roseau, too, has a new head coach. George Ziegler is in his first year with the Rams.

"They're doing some different things on offense than they have in the past," Oliver said.

Roseau and Senior High find themselves in similar positions. Both teams are 1-3 after wading through a difficult early season schedule.

All three of Senior High's losses have come against teams that have been ranked in the top 10 in the state polls.

"I really liked our week of practice," Oliver said. "We're close, but we haven't turned the corner yet. I think we're doing some good things. We just have to make more plays, especially in tight games."

Against the Rams, the Green Wave will also have to look out for Roseau senior Lyle Norman, who headlines the Rams on both offense and defense.

"Norman is a horse for them both running and catching out of the backfield," Oliver said. "You have to make sure to block him on defense, too. He plays inside linebacker for them and he's rangy and tough."

Duluth East


at GF Central

Entering the year, Grand Forks Central expected to be without its standout tailback Grant Parks for the first two games of the year.

However, going into tonight's 7 p.m. Week 5 matchup with Duluth East, the Knights remain without the talented runner, who is suffering from a broken toe.

"Grant goes back to the doctor next Tuesday," Central coach Bill Lorenz said. "When he played against Red River (a few plays), the toe wasn't completely healed. Then he dinged it again the next week in practice.

"He's a kid who will hopefully go on to play college football, so we want to get that toe completely healed. We might be able to see him next Friday."

The absence of Parks' explosiveness can at least be partially to blame for the Knights' 0-4 start.

"He's a game-changer for us," Lorenz said. "That's what we've been lacking. We don't have that go-to guy, who possesses the ability to score every time he touches it."

Like Central, Duluth East is also winless this season.


"Watching film, they appear to be in the same boat as us, playing a lot of sophomores and having a younger team," Lorenz said. "They'll present some problems for us. We'll have to put together four strong quarters."

Mandan at

Red River

The Grand Forks Red River football team had more to worry about than a loss to West Fargo last week. Potentially more damaging to the Roughriders season were the injuries to key players.

Red River running back A.J. Johnstone injured his ankle in the first quarter against the Packers, while quarterback Matt Hanson was dinged up on a hit in the fourth quarter.

In Saturday's 2 p.m. game against Mandan, Hanson will return to the lineup but Johnstone will be held out.

Red River coach Vyrn Muir expects Johnstone back in two weeks. However, Johnstone might see limited action in that game, too, as it's a nonconference matchup against Detroit Lakes.

"We're kind of beat up right now," Muir said. "It's nice this week that we have an extra day for guys to get stronger for Saturday."


Mandan, 3-2, presents a challenge for the Riders, who were beat for the first time last week.

The Braves are not be ranked in the state poll, but they've given some top teams a tough test. Mandan's losses were a 41-40 setback against Minot and a 28-20 loss to Fargo South.

Mandan is led by speedy running back Billy Binstock.

"He's not tall in stature, but he can get lost in the mix behind those big linemen and then all of a sudden he squirts out of there," Muir said. "Then when he gets hit, he can bounce right back, too."

Northern Freeze at

EGF Sacred Heart

East Grand Forks Sacred Heart will look to break out of its scoring funk when it hosts Northern Freeze at 7 tonight.

The winless Eagles have been shutout the past two weeks. Northern Freeze is 1-3 this season.


Sacred Heart, behind Christian Pagnac-Jundt's 243 rushing yards, beat Northern Freeze 20-14 last season. Corey Roach also had 69 rushing yards, including the game-winning score in the fourth quarter.

The Eagles may have another big ground game tonight as Pagnac-Jundt is a senior this season, while Roach is a junior.

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

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

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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