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Roughriders loaded with speed

Grand Forks Red River senior quarterback Sam King was trying to list his offensive weapons. "Elby Pope is an explosive guy," King said. "And there's Ben Prout, Chris Waind, Tyler Gefroh, Matt Lee . . . "Who all have I said so far?" It's a good si...

Grand Forks Red River senior quarterback Sam King was trying to list his offensive weapons.

"Elby Pope is an explosive guy," King said. "And there's Ben Prout, Chris Waind, Tyler Gefroh, Matt Lee . . .

"Who all have I said so far?"

It's a good sign for the Roughriders that King can't keep track of all the talented running backs and wide receivers at his disposal.

The Roughriders return four players who had more than 200 yards receiving last year and two running backs who had more than 380 yards rushing.

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"Skill position-wise, we bring a lot of experience back," Red River coach Vyrn Muir said.

It's a group loaded with speed, too. Red River's state champion 4x100 track team plays football. The relay team of Prout, Pope, Chris Dingle and Gefroh is expected to play a significant role with the Riders this season.

Gefroh returns with the most experience. The second team all-state linebacker had 260 receiving yards, 390 rushing yards and five touchdowns last season.

Pope emerged as a big-play threat at wide receiver. He had 19 catches for 279 yards and six touchdowns. He also racked up 147 yards on seven kickoff returns.

The Riders also hope to see big things from Prout, who was injured in the second game last season.

"We're going to try Ben in different spots," Muir said. "He's what I like to call a Swiss Army Knife type of player. He does everything. He'll be at receiver and running back."

The distributor

With all the talented wide receivers and linebackers, it's going to be King's job to get everyone involved.

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"All I have to do is get the ball out to those guys and let them rack up the yards," King said. "We have to get the ball to the fast players and let them do what they do best."

The large number of returners has made things go smoothly during the preseason.

"We have a lot of guys returning that played significant roles last season," King said. "You can tell early in practice everyone gets what they're supposed to be doing. It's made it easy to add more plays."

King's knowledge and experience have also helped things go well early on.

"Being a coach's son, he's watched a lot of film," Muir said, as Sam's dad, Darin, is a former Red River head coach. "He sees a lot of things that normal high school kids don't see. That's really a benefit. He has matured this year and has a full varsity season under his belt."

King was 90-for-179 for 1,330 yards and 10 touchdowns last season.

The Riders hope this group of seniors can bring the team back to winning ways. Red River was 2-7 last year and hasn't had a winning season since 2001.

"We need to make the extra play to get over that hump," King said. "We need to stay composed and make the plays."

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Muir said it's a group hungry for success.

"These kids all played last year and they didn't experience success," he said. "That's caused a lot of them to reinvigorate and get things done to experience that success this year. They were successful as freshmen and sophomores, and now they want to get that swagger back."

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

GF Central

Coach: Bill Lorenz.

2008 record: 1-5 East Region, 1-8 overall.

Key returners: Sr. WR Ger Schmidt (32 receptions, 576 yards, 4 TDs); sr. RB Jeremy Zahradka (110 carries, 486 yards, 8 receptions, 118 yards, 6 TDs); jr. RB Grant Parks (93 carries, 497 yards, 4 TDs); jr. OL Ben Lofgren; sr. OL Josh Berry; sr. WR Drew Jaeger (5 receptions, 64 yards, 1 TD).

Top newcomers: Sr. TE-LB Taylor Lahaise; sr. QB Brady Johnson; jr. QB Ken Smith.

Coach Lorenz says: "Running the football is what we're going to have to hang our hat on, especially early in the season. We know we have to develop our passing game. We have two offensive linemen returning and we have to find three more. We have some juniors that can do the job, but they need that game experience. On defense, we made some wholesale changes in Week 6. We switched from a four-man front to a three man. We feel we have more linebacker types than linemen types. I thought defensively we started to make some strides towards the end of last year."

GF Red River

Coach: Vyrn Muir.

2008 record: 1-5 East Region, 2-7 overall.

Key returners: Sr. WR-DB Chris Dingle (13 receptions, 201 yards); sr. RB-LB Tyler Gefroh (19 receptions, 260 yards, 53 carries, 390 yards, 5 TDs); sr. WR-DB Matt Lee (15 receptions, 252 yards, 1 TD); sr. WR-DB Elby Pope (15 receptions, 279 yards, 6 TDs); sr. RB-DB Ben Prout (21 carries, 86 yards); sr. TE-LB Zach Solheim (4 receptions, 56 yards); sr. RB-LB Chris Waind (77 carries, 385 yards, 4 receptions, 61 yards, 1 TD); sr. QB-DB Sam King (90-for-179, 1,330 yards, 10 TDs, 6 INTs); sr. OL-DL Will Gorman; sr. OL-DL Bryce O'Neill; sr. RB-LB Brian Ericson; sr. OL-DL Matt Coen-Tuff.

Top newcomers: Sr. OL-DL Josh Gessler; sr. RB-LB Andy Cook; sr. WR-LB Alex Hickel; sr. RB-DB Matt Loehr; jr. RB-DL Glen Mathews; jr. OL-DL Evan Mahar; jr. OL-DL Jace Hellman; jr. TE-DL Chris Corbit.

Coach Muir says: "Skill position-wise we bring a lot of experience back. Everyone returns. We didn't lose anybody. Now, we're hoping these guys won't make the same mistakes they did early in the season last year that we feel cost us a couple of games. If we can stay healthy and develop depth at the line, that'll be the pace of our team."

Related Topics: FOOTBALLPREP 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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