Only once did the Williston High football team score more than 20 points a year ago. That came in a Week 3 contest against West Region foe Minot High, which the Coyotes lost 45-36.
Tonight, the Magicians - who have allowed just 20 points in two wins - would like to tighten up defensively at home against Williston (1-1).
"Last year, how they scored a lot of their points is they simply threw the ball deep and we didn't defend vertically," MHS coach Barry Holmen said.
The Coyotes will be without starting senior quarterback Markus Noeske, who threw for 295 yards in last year's meeting. Noeske was suspended for the team's first four games after violating an unspecified team rule over the summer. Replacing him is junior Jayden Ferguson, a converted tight end learning the position while Noeske sits out.
"We have to change it up a little bit," Williston second-year coach James Klein said. "Jayden's more of a tight end."
The Magicians will be without junior linebacker Kolton Larson, who broke his foot in last week's 38-7 win at Grand Forks Central.
Minot senior defensive lineman Tanner Gust - an all-state player last year and perhaps the team's best defender with Larson out - said the Williston offensive player to worry about isn't Ferguson or any Williston wide receivers. Not with a Magicians defensive line that has put pressure on the quarterback early in the season and a secondary that has already intercepted six passes and returned three for scores.
The biggest worry for the Magicians on defense is Williston's 6-foot senior running back, Alex Haaland.
Haaland scored a pair of touchdowns in the Coyotes' 22-7 win against Sidney (Mont.) last week.
"They'll put him at tailback, fullback," Gust said. "We gotta be aware where he's at 'cause chances are he's going to get the ball. They want to get him the ball."
Offensively, the Magicians will try to improve a passing game that has undergone its share of struggles. Junior quarterback Alex Yanosko completed seven of his 13 passes for 62 yards last week, but that didn't affect his ability to run.
Yanosko rushed for 163 yards and two touchdowns. This came a week after Yanosko broke off a 53-yard score against Fargo North. Much of Yanosko's damage this year has come on broken pass plays.
"It's a combination of Alex being a run-threat off our fly-sweep action," Holmen said, "and part of it is just Alex being an athlete, scrambling and making plays when we're trying to throw the ball."
Gust - who also plays on the offensive line after playing fullback last year - said that while the offensive line has work to do, the talent is unavoidable.
"When every linemen's clicking on all cylinders, we do pretty well," he said.
Kickoff at Duane Carlson Stadium is scheduled for 8 p.m.