The Velva High School and Stanley-Powers Lake football programs know a thing or two about winning state championships.
The Aggies (1-1 overall, 1-0 Region 3) won Class A state titles in 2009 and 2010, while the Blue Jays (2-0, 1-0) are the defending state champions. Stanley's 2011 title was its first since 2002. Velva hopes to snap Stanley's 14-game winning streak when the two teams meet at 7 tonight in Velva.
"It's always been a big game against Stanley," Velva senior running back Nathan Schmaltz said. "You have to get through Stanley to get to state. It's been a huge rivalry so you always expect a big physical game."
Tim Chapman/MDN • Velva High School junior Michael Thingstad returns a kickoff against Bishop Ryan at Velva in both teams’ season openers last month.
Both teams also know a thing about running the football.
Stanley senior running back Abe Roehrich leads a Blue Jays offense that has totaled 111 points in two games this season. Roehrich, a first-team all-state selection last year, scored on four of his six touches in a 71-7 rout of Garrison-Max on Friday. He rushed for 88 yards, including a 52-yard touchdown, and scored on a punt return.
"We know we have a big bull's eye on our back after last year," Roehrich said. "But we come every week prepared to play our best every week."
One week earlier, Roehrich rushed 15 times for 126 yards and scored two touchdowns in a 40-6 victory over Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn.
But Roehrich isn't the only component to Stanley's running game. Senior running back Dylan Eckert creates a one-two punch in the backfield. Eckert rushed for 84 yards on seven carries and scored a touchdown against Garrison-Max.
"He's a different type of runner," Stanley coach Lyne Enget said. "He's not as big, but he's a slasher that can cut through holes."
According to Velva coach Larry Sandy, stopping Stanley's running game has to happen close to the line.
"(Roehrich) is a good running back behind a decent offensive line and it's going to be tough to stop," he said. "He's going to get yards and all you can do is try to prevent big plays."
Velva has a dynamic duo in the backfield as well in Schmaltz and senior Taylor Barstad. Barstad carried the ball 26 times for 121 yards and a touchdown in a close loss to Bishop Ryan in the opening game of the season. He also caught a touchdown pass. Schmaltz added 65 yards on nine carries and a touchdown.
"We have a lot of weapons offensively running the ball, but our line is really going to have to get it done (tonight)," Schmaltz said. "(Stanley) is really aggressive and we're going to have to match that aggressiveness and get some yards."
Barstad and Schmaltz combined for three touchdowns in a 26-8 victory over Williams County last week.
Although it's still early in the season, recent games between the two teams have had regional and state title implications. Since Stanley joined Region 3 in 2009, the winner between the two schools has claimed both the regional and state titles each year.
"It's always a big game no matter what the records are," Roehrich said. "It's a big game when it's Stanley and Velva."
Said Enget: "This game has always been physical even if one team is better than the other. It always comes down to one of those rivalries that turns into a slugfest. This is going to be a slugfest."