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North Prairie, 2-6 last season, is playing for region title

From a 2-6 record to a region championship? Jeff Marty admits the scenario seems unrealistic. But that's what Marty's North Prairie football team will attempt to achieve. North Prairie and Larimore are tied atop the North Dakota Region 2A standings.

From a 2-6 record to a region championship? Jeff Marty admits the scenario seems unrealistic.

But that's what Marty's North Prairie football team will attempt to achieve. North Prairie and Larimore are tied atop the North Dakota Region 2A standings. They close the regular season against each other at 7 p.m. Saturday in Larimore.

Both teams are 6-0 in the region and have clinched state playoff berths. North Prairie, 2-6 a year ago, is 7-1 overall. Larimore is 7-0 and will try for its second straight undefeated regular season.

"It's been a major turnaround for us," Marty said. "But we were hoping for something like this. It's not a total surprise to us. We were looking at the Larimore game and hoping it would be for a region title.

"A lot of times, people would probably question something like that (turnaround) happening. But the coaching staff last year did a good job of getting kids in the right positions and ready. It was a young team. There were growing pains, but there was potential."

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Marty, who missed last season due to his commitments to the National Guard, has a balanced offense. Jeff Gailfus, Sean Soukup and Taylor Scott all have rushed for more than 400 yards. All three have had at least one 100-yard rushing game. And Trevor Gottbreht has been solid at quarterback.

"We don't have a sprinter type," Marty said. "Our backs run hard and they're smart, following their blockers."

But, Marty said, the biggest reason for the turnaround has been the linemen.

The offensive blocking unit starts center Trent McCloud, guards Austin Rinas and Grayson Marty, tackles Karson Schoening and Tyler Welander and tight end Weston Schoening. McCloud, Rinas, Weston Schoening and Paul Kurtti start on the defensive front.

"We have decent size," Jeff Marty said of the linemen, who range from 205 to 300 pounds. "But they're also a pretty athletic bunch. Most of them are pretty mobile big kids.

"Those linemen have led the team as far as being dedicated to improving. They wanted to do everything they could to improve on what happened last year. But it's not just them. There have been improvements across the board. It's a good core group of kids who put in a lot of time since last season."

Larimore is similar to North Prairie. The Polar Bears rely heavily on the running game, with a deep, balanced group in the backfield led by Hunter Trosen and Jake Peterson. And the strength is up front, with the offensive line led by a pair of 2012 all-staters in Brayden Hofer and Matt Bratlie.

The title isn't the only thing up for grabs in Region 2A. On Saturday, Langdon-Munich (2-4 in Region 2A) is at Lakota-Edmore-Dakota Prairie (3-3) and Mayville-Portland-C-G (3-3) is at Park River/Fordville-Lankin (4-2). All four of those teams still have shots at the region's two remaining playoff berths.

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Other area games to watch this week include:

Football

• Stephen-Argyle (5-2) at Kittson County Central (7-0), Tuesday in Hallock, Minn.: Kittson County Central will try to finish off an undefeated season against its long-time rival. The Bearcats have one of the most explosive 9-man offenses in the state, averaging 47.9 points a game. Stephen-Argyle, after an 0-2 start, has won five straight.

Volleyball

• Lakota-Edmore at Langdon, Tuesday: Lakota-Edmore has emerged as a power behind the big hitting of veterans Fallyn Freije and Mary Haman and transfer addition Shaye Ronningen. This will be a measuring stick for L-E against perennial Region 4 power Langdon with a solid group back from last season's state runner-up team.

Cross country

• N.D. Class B East Region, Saturday: Cooperstown hosts the regional. The region is especially strong in the girls division with defending state champion Hillsboro-Central Valley and top 10-ranked individuals Ashley Neumiller of Carrington, Annika Rotvold and Gracie Wright of Hillsboro-CV, Madison Gapp of Langdon, Callee Peterson of Mayville-Portland-C-G and defending state champion Ashley Perez of Dakota Prairie.

DeVillers reports on sports. Call him at (701) 780-1128, (800) 477-6572 ext. 1128 or send email to gdevillers@gfherald.com .

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