The Divide County High School football program's winning tradition stretches to 1933 when it won its first of three consecutive 9-man Region 4 titles.
The Maroons have won at least one region title every decade since the 1930s. The program has 18 region titles to its name, a state title in 1998 and the Crosby-based Maroons are the two-time defending Region 4 champion.
The Maroons started this season the same way they've started the past two - winning their first four region games. Winning may be an understatement as the team's closest game was a 38-6 win over Hettinger-Scranton. Divide County has outscored its opponents 186-32.
File Photo • Senior defensive back Bennett Lystad pushes Central McLean’s Matt Landenberger out of bounds during a game last year. Lystad and the Divide County defense have allowed an average of eight points per game this season.
Co-coach Nate Nelson attributes the strong start to the team's experience.
"Any time you can return a handful of starters from last year, that's a good place to start with your team," he said.
The Maroons return a number of skill-position players, including senior quarterback Lance Knudson, junior running back Isaac Jacobs, senior tight end Bennett Lystad and senior wide receiver Taylor Johnson.
The Maroons have not lost a region game since Sept. 24, 2010, when they dropped a 40-38 decision at Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood. MLS has since moved to Region 3. But the string of success in region play hasn't caused the Maroons to overlook any opponent.
"We don't try to focus on the opponent as much as we try to get better than we were last week," co-coach Bob Brown said. "You're always trying to achieve that undefeated record, but you have to take it one game at a time. The kids stay motivated that way."
Divide County is built on the consistency of an explosive offense and a stout defense. The Maroons have the capability to put up 50-plus points with Knudson and Jacobs. But Nelson says it starts with the guys up front. Senior lineman Ethan Feil (6-4, 255) and junior lineman Matt Evans (6-3, 280) anchor a five-man line with an average weight over 250 pounds.
"It's nice to have those big guys on the line for us," Nelson said. "Not too many teams have the guys on the line like we do. It fits our offensive and defensive style. When you have good players that are that big and athletic, it makes our job that much easier."
When the offense is struggling - which rarely occurs - Divide County can rely on its defense. The Maroons allowed 12.8 points per game last season and are limiting opponents to eight points per game this season.
"We tackle pretty well," Brown said. "They feel very comfortable in the types of systems we use on defense."
The Maroons lost seven seniors from last year, including tight end Andreas Holm. Holm led Divide County to the state semifinal where the team lost to North Star 32-28. Holms caught a 4-yard touchdown pass in that game.
The Maroons look to improve to 5-0 when they host Beach (3-1 overall, 3-1 region) at 7 tonight.