It wasn't pretty, but Barry Holmen will take a tough win to keep his team undefeated.
The Minot High School football coach has been in enough homecoming games to know it's a week filled with distractions, but his Magicians ultimately handled business to beat stingy Dickinson 19-3 on Friday at Duane Carlson Stadium.
MHS (6-0 overall, 3-0 West Region) was held to its lowest scoring output of the season, but capitalized on a handful of big plays and three first-half turnovers by the Midgets. Neither team scored in the second half.
The Minot High School football team lines up against Dickinson in the Magicians’ 19-3 homecoming win Friday at Duane Carlson Stadium.
"Later in the contest, it was very conservative play calling, but it was also a case of we had a 16-point lead," Holmen said, "and we're trying to burn clock and get to the end healthy and we succeeded in that. It was ugly tonight in a lot of ways, but it's also maybe a game that reminds you that you have a lot of work ahead of you. Maybe it can refocus our team a little bit."
Dickinson (3-3, 1-3) had success early in the passing game, but failed to finish drives and had turnovers on its first two possessions. MHS sophomore defensive end Braydon Lund recovered a fumble on the Magicians' 6-yard line after the Midgets marched 76 yards on the opening drive.
MHS senior Jordan Seideman picked off Dickinson junior quarterback Charles Splichal near midfield on the next series and returned it to the Midgets' 14-yard line.
Senior running back Brady Lampert rushed in for the first of his two touchdowns on the next play. Lampert finished with 77 yards on 21 carries as Dickinson made the MHS ball carriers earn tough yards.
"They filled the holes really good up front and they made our linemen struggle," Lampert said. "And I struggled too. It was hard running, I'll say that."
Dickinson responded with a five-minute drive on a mixture of running between Splichal and senior fullback Michael Cherwinski and passing to senior wideout Dylan Skabo. The drive ended with a 34-yard field goal after MHS senior cornerback Josh Pizzo leapt to break up a pass on third down from the MHS 16-yard line.
The MHS secondary struggled as Splichal trusted a core of four receivers - three of them 6-foot-2 or taller - to outjump the Magicians on deep passes up the sideline. He was picked off twice on shorter routes over the middle by senior linebacker Kolton Larson and finished 13 of 29 for 215 yards.
"I thought, overall, our defense played pretty well. What the heck? They scored a field goal," Holmen said. "But, certainly, way too many times where it was just jump balls and we lost those jump balls most of the time tonight. Part of it is just attacking the ball. Part of it is just proper technique - get the guy's arms down."
MHS scored on the next possession in the second quarter when MHS sophomore quarterback Ben Bolinske found senior Tre Kinchen in the front left corner of the end zone on a 33-yard pass. Kinchen made a strong move back to the ball to cap the drive, which was kept alive by Bolinske's 10-yard run into Dickinson territory on a fake punt.
"I thought early in the game Ben Bolinske showed a little bit of fight too," Holmen said, "in the sense that he scrambled once early for a first down. He's reading (that fake) and it was a good decision and it was a great play on his part that helped us in that quarter."
Lampert scored on a 2-yard run on the next MHS possession, which was the team's strongest on the ground. Following a Dickinson touchback on a punt, MHS senior receiver Kimani Benjamin took a reverse 60 yards up the left sideline. Junior tailback Karter Gorney followed with an 18-yard scamper to set up the score. Benjamin finished with a game-high 83 rushing yards on nine carries. Gorney later broke a 49-yard run up the middle.
"Our kids played their hearts out, really they did," DHS first-year coach John Tuchscherer said. "I couldn't be prouder than that, but if you're gonna beat a good team like Minot High you have to limit mistakes. They're big, they're fast. The thing that I'm really impressed about is their quarterback. He comes in, he's a sophomore and you could just see just the strides he's made."
Larson snagged his first interception on Dickinson's last possession of the half and made the second late in the fourth quarter on a 4th-and-6 at the MHS 8-yard line.
"That's something we've been working on for the past couple weeks is our pass drops as inside linebackers," Larson said. "We've been working with coach (Jerry) Danelson a lot on getting depth, especially this week when they're coming across the middle with slants. We pregamed that every single day, so it's just a matter of putting it into play."
Bolinske finished 3 of 8 for 44 yards and one interception. DHS blocked the Magicians' second extra-point attempt and senior kicker Ben Love missed the third attempt.
MHS hosts Jamestown (4-2, 2-2) on Friday.
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.