GGF PREP FOOTBALL PREVIEW: Riders hope to control trenches

Grand Forks Red River's ability to run the football this season and Grand Forks Central's inability to stop the rush so far is the glaring matchup heading into Cushman Classic XV.

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Grand Forks Red River's ability to run the football this season and Grand Forks Central's inability to stop the rush so far is the glaring matchup heading into Cushman Classic XV.

The Roughriders' advantage along the line of scrimmage is expected to play a key role at 7 tonight at Cushman Field as Red River looks to win its third straight Classic.

The Riders haven't won three straight against the Knights since winning four in a row from 1991 to 1994.

"They're experienced up front on both sides of the ball," Central coach Bill Lorenz said. "That's what's scary about them. Their offensive and defensive lines are strong, and they've proved that the way they've rushed the ball."

Red River, which recently moved up to the No. 5 ranking in the state Class AAA poll, has averaged 5.4 yards per carry so far this season.


Dayton Marek has led the way with 241 yards, followed by Logan Ferry with 99. Marek averages 5.7 per carry, while Ferry is at 5.8.

"We have to run the football," said Red River coach Vyrn Muir, whose team beat Central 16-0 in last year's Classic. "Like any high school team, if we can't run the football, we're going to be in trouble all night. It's the same situation as last year where we have the advantage on paper in terms of size.

"But we found out last year, you still have to go out and execute and play hard and block the right guy. At times last year, we didn't do that well. That's the challenge in front of us again."

Central, meanwhile, has struggled against the run this season. The Knights have given up 714 rushing yards, allowing 9.3 yards per carry.

"What we have to do is be assignment sharp," Lorenz said. "That's what has been lacking the first couple of weeks. We have to be able to read keys and step up and tackle. We've worked hard on tackling in practice the past two weeks."

Lorenz said the Riders are straight-forward with their run game.

"They don't make any bones about what they're trying to do," Lorenz said. "They don't get fancy. They run a handful of plays, and they run them very well."

The Knights are hoping their defensive struggles can be attributed to playing the No. 3 (Mandan) and No. 4 team (Minot) in the state to open the season.


Muir also noted he wants his team to be aware of the tough West Region competition the Knights have faced.

"The first thing is we can't underestimate them," Muir said. "They've played two very good football teams. We did that a few years ago when we opened against Bismarck Century and Bismarck High. We know what it's like to have that much success right away, but (the Knights) have done some good things here and there.

"And with the way they run their offense, if we make one mistake, they can make a big play."

Senior High at Crookston

East Grand Forks Senior High coach Scott Oliver, a former Minnesota-Crookston coach, will be on an unfamiliar side of the field when the Green Wave visit Ed Widseth Field in Crookston tonight.

The second-year head coach hopes to see improvement from his inexperienced team, which dropped its season opener to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton last Friday.

"I think we definitely found out that we can play some competitive football," Oliver said. "We also found out where there's a lot of room for improvement. I told our team (Wednesday) that we're a different team right now than we were on Friday. That's just three days of practice. That's very encouraging to see."

The Wave may work a new quarterback into the mix against the Pirates, who beat Warroad 28-26 in their season opener.


Senior High quarterback Brent Hagen was 6 of 14 passing for 47 yards and two interceptions in the 29-7 loss to D-G-F.

The Wave plan to get a look at junior Nick Erickson under center.

"We need a few more plays out of that quarterback spot," Oliver said. "That's a position, along with a few others, that I ear-marked Monday that I felt we needed to get better at."

The Pirates are led by first-year starting quarterback Dylan Klatt, who passed for 91 yards and rushed for 95 against Warroad. Klatt also threw three picks against the Warriors.

Badger-G-MR at Sacred Heart

The East Grand Forks Sacred Heart offense might have passed for more than 150 yards last week, but Eagles coach Drew Mortenson would prefer to keep it on the ground Saturday against Badger-Greenbush-Middle River.

"If we could go a whole game without passing, I'd be fine with that," Mortenson said. "Basically, we were taking what the defense gave us last week. The situation and defense put us in the position to pass."

The Eagles lost their season opener 32-24 against Waubun.


B-G-MR is in its first season of 9-man football since 2006.

"Badger has a lot of kids out for football," Mortenson said. "They're a big, strong, physical team. That's one thing that worries us. We're small and athletic. If we're willing to match their physicality, we'll do just fine."

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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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