If recent history is an accurate indicator, Bishop Ryan High School should have no trouble in its West Region opener against Turtle Mountain at 7 tonight at Herb Parker Stadium.
The Lions (1-1) won their last two games against TMCHS by a combined score of 95-13. But Ryan coach Brad Borkhuis won't allow his team to look past the Braves.
"We keep the players from overlooking an opponent because of our expectations of them on the field," Borkhuis said. "Winning the game is not enough. We expect their best on every play."
After winning their opener in the final minutes against Velva, Ryan fell to Kindred, 28-22. Kindred junior quarterback Eric Bachmeier threw for 117 yards and rushed for 210, scoring all four touchdowns for the Vikings. Borkhuis said the team knew what they had to work on and addressed those issues during this week's practices.
"We regained our focus," he said. "We got right back to business. We knew what errors we needed to address and the kids did a good job of addressing those errors. They got back to the mental focus."
The Lions have a number of weapons to choose from starting with senior running back Chase Fugere. He has rushed for 149 yards and a touchdown this season.
"We have to come out and be ready to go," Fugere said. "We can't overlook anybody. Anybody can beat anybody regardless of whatever the rankings are."
TMCHS coach Chris Smith said Fugere is "probably the best running back in our region." Making immediate tackles will be key to keeping Fugere in check, Smith said.
"The Fugere kid is just a strong back," Smith said. "We have to make the tackles on him. He's fast and quick and he's really strong. He breaks tackles. He's a very physical kid."
Fugere described TMCHS (0-2) as "fast with a pretty good quarterback." The Braves lost junior quarterback Kersten Keplin on the second defensive series of the season. Sophomore quarterback Jordan Davis is filling in and has gotten off to a slow start; the Braves are averaging 11 points per game this season.
Even with the statistics and history pointing in Ryan's favor, Borkhuis stressed the importance of each region game.
"This is one of the ones that counts toward making the playoffs," he said. "If we want to achieve our goal of winning a state title then we need to win these region games."
Said Fugere: "It's huge. That's the starting point."