It's been 10 long days since the Bishop Ryan football team played its regular-season finale, losing to Bismarck St. Mary's on Senior Night for the Lions' lone loss in Class AA West Region play.
The Lions have put that defeat behind them and look to take out their frustration when they host East Region opponent Valley City in the first round of the Class AA playoffs at 4:30 p.m. today at Herb Parker Stadium.
Ryan (7-2 overall, 6-1 region) won the region title, while the Hi-Liners (5-3-1, 4-3) are their region's No. 4 seed. Valley City lost at Grafton in its last game.
Bishop Ryan junior Nick Berentson runs down the sideline during a game earlier this season. The Lions host Valley City today in the first round of the Class AA playoffs.
Ryan coach Brad Borkhuis said the loss to St. Mary's served as a valuable lesson to his team.
"No loss is ever the worst loss unless it's in the playoffs," he said. "We can't just show up and expect to win. We have to win it step by step and day by day."
Valley City has a run-first offense with senior Anthony Olstad and junior Dustin Lindgren splitting carries, and a run-stopping defense behind senior linebacker Tayler Lentz. Senior quarterback Austin Svenningsen threw just five times in a 40-12 victory against Central Cass that clinched a playoff berth for the Hi-Liners.
"We know they want to run the ball," Borkhuis said. "That's their forte. They want to stop our run as well. They play a solid inside defense. We're going to have to make sure we get off the ball well."
The Hi-Liner defense is also opportunistic against the pass. Valley City recorded five interceptions against Central Cass, including three by Lentz. Ryan junior quarterback Austin Eggl is coming off a five-turnover performance (four interceptions, one fumble) and stressed the importance of limiting mistakes.
"It was definitely a disappointing performance," Eggl said. "We have to protect the football better this week and just put last week's game behind us."
Mother Nature played a role in Eggl's performance, as 35-mph winds made throwing the ball a nightmare for the junior quarterback. Eggl shouldn't have to worry about high winds today, as the weather report for kickoff calls for 6-mph winds with a zero percent chance of precipitation.
"You never want the wind to be blowing like that, but even if it is, you have to fight through it," Eggl said.
Both teams have relied on game film to prepare for today's game as they haven't played since the Lions defeated the Hi-Liners 21-7 in September 2006.
"We're not terribly familiar with them," Valley City coach Scott Roehrich said. "We've probably had one opponent that runs a lot of the same stuff. We've seen some of it, but we haven't seen someone who runs it as well as they do. They're a solid football team."
Offensively, the Lions will look to do what they have done all season: run the ball to set up Eggl and the passing game.
"We have to make sure we play within ourselves," Borkhuis said. "As our offense is designed, we take what the defense gives us."
Playoff experience could play a factor. The Lions made the postseason last year and the Hi-Liners failed to make the playoffs. But Valley City qualified in 2010 and has 17 seniors on the roster.
"I'd like to think we can rely on some of our experience of being a senior-dominated football team," Roehrich said.
Said Eggl: "You're always a little more excited, but we still have to think of it as just another game. We have some experience from last year so that should help us out."