For the second straight week the Minot High School football team is on the road against an overmatched West Region opponent.
The No. 4-ranked Magicians (3-0 overall, 1-0 region) play Mandan (0-3, 0-1) in the Braves' homecoming game at 6:30 p.m. tonight.
Minot leading rusher and senior Brady Lampert will try to follow his 107-yard, two-touchdown performance against Williston with another strong game. The north-south power back has 263 yards on the season and is averaging 5.6 yards per carry. He scored twice and racked up 125 yards in last year's 26-8 win over the Braves, who have been outscored 134-34 this season.
"We're gonna pound it down the field and play some hard football," Lampert said. "You have to go with the same mentality as last year. They're going to be a hard-hitting team. We can't overlook anybody right now."
Mandan soundly beat Minot the last time the teams met on the Braves' field in a 28-7 contest in 2011. Minot coach Barry Holmen expects his team to come out with the same dominant intensity it did against the Coyotes.
"We know it's a hard place to play," Holmen said. "I think they're a team that's just hungry for some success here and they're capable of earning it.
"They always play physical. I think their strength is some big guys up front. I don't see on film that one real explosive, go-to guy. They have to be diverse and so we have to be disciplined and not give up a big play."
Lampert is hoping to provide big-play material for the Magicians. He is a particular self-critic and is anxiously seeking to break a long run like the 42-yard score that put the Braves away last year.
"I'd like to put us in better situations," Lampert said. "I'd like to do my job a little better. (When) making my first move in the pocket, I'm kind of struggling to break a run. Time comes and you always break a big-yarder every now and then, but I have to do better at making my reads."
The 2012 second-team all-state selection will have ample opportunity to make big gains despite the emergence of able backs like junior Karter Gorney.
"He is our go-to ground guy and we're not afraid to let other guys take their turn, but Brady's pretty good and he's running hard in between the tackles and he hasn't turned the ball over, knock on wood," Holmen said. "We haven't had a lot of mistakes when he's carried the ball. We get positive yards, typically, when we give him the ball because he can finish."
Finishing drives and limiting penalties are focal points after the Magicians had 10 penalties for 80 yards against Williston. Three penalties brought back touchdowns, including a 47-yard run by Gorney, and MHS had two of its three turnovers in the red zone.
"A penalty where a kid is working hard downfield, trying to get that extra block and it ends up being a block in the back - OK. You know, some of those you can take," Holmen said. "But how many offsides and illegal motion penalties did we have? Way too many."
Mandan coach Todd Sheldon said his staff saw "tenacious" Minot lines on film and described senior wide receiver Kimani Benjamin as the one of the best individual athletes his team will face this season.
"They have a sophomore quarterback who looks like he's stepped up and played really well and it looks like the team hasn't missed a beat," Sheldon said.
The second-year coach said much of his team's strength is along the offensive line. Senior right tackle Tyler Jans had six pancake blocks in last week's 48-14 loss to Grand Forks Red River last week. Senior quarterback Ross Effertz led the team in rushing in each of Mandan's first three games despite battling injuries, Sheldon said.
The Magicians forced four turnovers against Williston while pitching their second shutout of the season. Senior linebacker Kolton Larson returned an interception for a touchdown and junior linebackers Alex Mack and Jared Kramer also had picks. Minot also recovered a Williston fumble.
"Our defensive backs aren't giving up things deep is what I'm really happy with," Minot defensive coordinator Jerry Danelson said, "and our D-linemen got hands on (opposing) linemen and we need that more because we have pretty good linebackers behind them."
Minot's five-linebacker look was monstrous last week. The versatile group was in the backfield nearly every play and helped limit the Coyotes to just 104 yards of total offense and five first downs.
Larson and Mack, specifically, made acrobatic grabs and athletic moves upfield after the interceptions.
"I think they were in trips (formation) and (Mack) widened like we asked and they threw him the ball, but he made a hell of a catch," Danelson said. "The catch was more impressive than anything. Outside linebacker in our defense is a tough position to play because we're asking you to be a run player and a pass player and you gotta read it like that and Mack's getting nothing but better for us."
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.