Schools across western North Dakota can expect to have surprise athletes show up each year as the oil industry continues to boom.
Detroit transfer Kolton Stevens is earning his role with the Minot High School football team after moving to North Dakota to join his father, who works for an oil company.
Stevens will miss Friday's game in Williston because of a sprained MCL in his right knee, but expects to return the following week against Mandan. Before suffering the setback against Davies, the senior began excelling at defensive end and had a 17-yard reception on offense in the season opener.
Minot High School senior Kolton Stevens carries a Velva tackler as he gains more yards on a reception during a scrimmage last month. Stevens, a transfer from Detroit, is making an impact as a defensive end and receiver.
"Kolton Stevens has been very good for us at defensive end, so we're pleased with him," MHS coach Barry Holmen said. "I would call him the one new fella that has really already given us a significant contribution during games and we're hoping now others, as they learn our system, can join us."
Stevens looks every bit a defensive end. At 6-foot-4, he is the tallest Magician and an athletic 204 pounds. In the opener, he crushed West Fargo quarterback Scott Cameron at the thrower's point of release. He had to be gang-tackled on his reception.
"I've been taking the system good," Stevens said. "It's just like a normal team. We're all a family here."
The Magic City presents a noticeable contrast to the rougher Motor City.
"Minot's good," he said. "There's better people here. It's a different environment."
Stevens played football in Detroit, but was lower on the depth chart as a junior. He said much of what the MHS staff has taught him about defensive end is new. He's focusing on keeping his hands high, watching the quarterback and players in motion and not getting too far up the field.
"I just think he's physical," Holmen said. "He plays hard and you want a defensive end that's physical, especially on the tight end side. You're gonna get double-teamed and you have to handle some things, some physical play, and he's been good."
Much to love in kicking game
Look at the box scores in this newspaper's scoreboard page on a Saturday during the high school football season and you'll likely see far too much "(kick failed)" for the extra points following touchdowns. You'll likely see far fewer field goals even attempted.
Minot High doesn't have that problem and they stayed in a close, come-from-behind win because of a rare reliable leg.
Senior kicker Ben Love booted a career-long 44-yard field goal in the Magicians' 34-27 overtime win over Fargo Davies on Friday. The kick, which very few teams can even consider taking, counted for the team's only points in the third quarter. Two Davies' touchdowns followed in the fourth quarter and without those three points MHS was looking at a two-score deficit in the final minutes of regulation.
Love hit a 37-yarder in the second quarter and is 4 for 4 on the season. He is 7 for 7 on extra points and has seven touchbacks. Holmen noted that Love's field goals have increased MHS leads from one-score advantages to two-score leads.
"Part of it is just where you're at," MHS coach Barry Holmen said. "If it's fourth-and-12 on the 25, (Love) has a good chance to make it and I would say almost a better chance to make it than to convert a 4th-and-long first down in that situation."
Holmen was also pleased to see the late-game composure match Love's talent.
"We lose if he doesn't kick the extra point after that last touchdown in regulation," Holmen said. "He pounded 'er right through."
Love followed Friday's successful night with an unofficial visit to the University of North Dakota. UND fell to South Dakota State, but Love enjoyed learning more about the program he may kick for next.
"The special teams coach walked me through the place, showed me the locker rooms and I got to go on the field during warmups," Love said.
UND is at the top of Love's list of colleges that have shown interest in him as a place-kicker.
Love said he hit a pair of field goals from 57 yards during practice Tuesday, but is intent on training as diligently on his kickoffs to ensure MHS a field-position advantage.
"When I hit 'em good they're going where I want 'em to, but I'm still mishitting a couple every game," he said. "It really is just all about striking the ball right. If I get it right it goes about however far I need it to."
Pizzo doesn't mind being singled out
MHS senior cornerback Josh Pizzo had a pretty good idea Fargo Davies' final play of overtime was coming his way.
On third down of the Eagles' lone overtime possession, junior quarterback Aiden Hartness tried to find twin brother Tristen (6-foot-2) on a corner route. Pizzo, listed at 5-8, knocked the pass down.
"And next play I knew that they were on the 8-yard line, so obviously they're not gonna run it," Pizzo said. "If they had a lot of confidence they would've ran it. They sent (Tristen Hartness) around on a fade and he beat me for a second ... so I got on his inside and just tripped him up there and he couldn't really make a play on the ball."
Defensive coordinator Jerry Danelson described Pizzo as "probably the best cover corner I've had for a long time." Pizzo is on his way to validating that praise.
"I just had to stay calm, just not panic and just do what I know how to do," Pizzo said. "He just kind of ran up to me and then went straight for the corner. Not a lot of contact, he just tripped up."
MHS swimmers notch qualifying times
Led by 10 swimmers, who clocked at least one state-qualifying time each, the Minot High School girls team beat Williston 126-59 on Monday.
Through two meets, MHS has qualifiers in all 12 events, including 1-meter diving. Junior swimmer Francesca Walker-Rozo, a Minnesota transfer, won the 50-meter freestyle and 100 butterfly in Monday's dual. Both wins marked qualifiers for the state meet and Walker-Rozo has also qualified in the 100 freestyle and as a member of two relay teams.
"Swimming against Williston is always a challenge," MHS coach Dan Hinton said in a press release. "It is one of the meets every season that the team looks forward to. We had a strong performance all around."
The Majettes finished first in 11 of the meet's 12 events. Junior swimmer McKenna Brown won the 200 and 500 freestyle events and joined Walker-Rozo on winning relays in the 200 medley and 400 freestyle.
MHS senior divers Emmalee Stach, Maddie Bickel and Paige Melby finished first, second and fourth, respectively. WHS freshman Katie Olson took third.
Williston junior Ketti Ringwall won the 100 freestyle for the Coyotes' lone win. For results from Monday's meet see D2.
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.