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Prep football: Long streaks amplify pressures

On Grand Forks Red River's bus ride home from Williston on Friday, talk of the following week's Cushman Classic, which annually features the Roughriders and rival Grand Forks Central, arose.

On Grand Forks Red River's bus ride home from Williston on Friday, talk of the following week's Cushman Classic, which annually features the Roughriders and rival Grand Forks Central, arose.

"They said, 'coach, we don't care if it's 3-2,' " Red River coach Vyrn Muir said, ". . . as long as we win."

That's because winning is something that has eluded the Roughriders since 2001, when Drew Thomas ran for 274 yards to beat the Knights. Since, Central has won seven straight times.

The lengthy drought has built pressure on both teams.

"I wouldn't say it's a monkey on our back, but these kids want to be the group that stops the streak," Muir said.

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And at Central, the Knights are focused on keeping the streak alive.

"We've won the past seven years and the seniors take a lot of pride with that," Central coach Bill Lorenz said. "With any type of streak, your seniors don't want to be the ones to lose it.

"There's pressure. There's pride. There are bragging rights. That's what makes this rivalry what it is."

Some close calls

It's not that Red River hasn't had its chances against the Knights. Red River has lost by seven points or fewer three times during the seven-year stretch.

In 2002, Central was able to hold on to a 13-7 win. Central won 21-14 in 2006 and 26-20 last season.

Last year's Central victory, which was keyed by a 48-yard touchdown catch by Ger Schmidt from Seth Zygarlicke with about two minutes to play, was especially stinging for Red River. Zygarlicke's ball was severely underthrown and Schmidt had to come back to the ball before shaking off a defender for the go-ahead score.

"With that big pass at the end last year, it left a bitter taste in our mouth," Muir said.

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Both Grand Forks coaches expect this year's score to be tight, as well.

Of Red River and Central's four nonconference games to start the season, three were common opponents.

Red River and Central each defeated Mandan and Williston decisively, and they both lost to Minot.

"It's going to be whatever team executes the best, and it could come down to who gets a break late in the game," Muir said.

Said Lorenz: "I'm assuming it's going to be a close game. The biggest thing is limiting big plays. That's been our bug on defense. If we can limit the big plays, keep the ball on offense and grind it out, I would like to think we can keep this a close game."

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

Related Topics: GF CENTRALPREP 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, tmiller@gfherald.com or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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