Based on the way Kolton Larson plays a violent sport like football in such a calculated fashion, his answer to the following question came as no surprise.
What does he plan to major in after graduating from Minot High School in the spring?
"Right now, I'm leaning toward industrial engineering and management," Larson said Tuesday. "It's a dual major thing. It's basically about optimizing efficiency and stuff like that. It's just something that interests me."
Minot High School senior linebacker Kolton Larson plans to major in industrial engineering and management and continue playing football in college.
Optimizing efficiency is what the senior inside linebacker and fullback does on nearly every play. Larson is a two-time all-state linebacker, but missed the majority of his junior season with a foot injury that required surgery. His return is playing a major role in a remarkable defensive run by the Magicians (6-0 overall, 3-0 West Region), who host Jamestown at 7 p.m. tonight at Duane Carlson Stadium.
MHS has three shutouts and gave up just a field goal in a 19-3 win over Dickinson last week. Larson, a sure tackler at the line and in the open field, has a team-high three interceptions and returned one for a touchdown in week three against Williston. He's second on the team in tackles, tied for the lead in fumble recoveries (2) and has a sack and four tackles for loss.
"He wasn't 100 percent at the beginning of the year and every week he seems to be running a little better, so we're excited for him that he continues to get close to 100 percent," MHS coach Barry Holmen said. "I think it's showing in how he moves on the field, defensively. You gotta move a little bit to find those interceptions and he's doing a real nice job for us blocking. We certainly haven't given him the ball as much as we did in the past, but part of that is due to other weapons that have evolved and he's a very selfless player."
Jamestown back in the hunt
Jamestown is no longer an afterthought in the Class AAA West Region football discussion. Second-year coach Tim Fletcher's Blue Jays (4-2 overall, 2-2 region) have already doubled their win total from last year and are in contention for the program's first playoff berth since 2008.
"It's really our offseason program that we put in place and the expectations of our players getting in the weight room and attending camps in offseason," Fletcher said. "They've taken a lot of pride and leadership from this senior group."
Jamestown took care of the region's two winless teams - Mandan and Williston - in dominant fashion. The Blue Jays handily beat two East Region opponents, but got blown out by Bismarck High and Century.
Next up is undefeated Minot High (6-0, 3-0) at 7 p.m. tonight at Duane Carlson Stadium.
"I thought their new coach last year did a nice job with 'em," MHS coach Barry Holmen said. "They found some energy, some positives and then they won some games. They were 3-1 at one point this year, so they got a taste of winning and that's worth a lot, especially if you haven't had that in awhile."
The Blue Jays are led by senior running back Taylor Orr, who has six touchdowns and 659 yards with an average of 5.6 per carry. Orr's tough running style has helped the Jays get all four wins comfortably. Jamestown outscored opponents by a combined 132-26 in those games and is coming off a 24-0 win over Williston.
"They're a quality team," Holmen said. "They have a good quarterback who throws the ball well, and they have a good tailback who's pretty shifty, so you combine that with some guys up front that are physical and you have potential for some big plays."
JHS junior quarterback Ross Monson has thrown for 627 yards and has four receivers with more than 100 yards. Monson has seven passing TDs, three rushing and just one interception in 75 attempts.
The Magicians are coming off a hard-fought 19-3 win over Dickinson, who is a game back of Jamestown for the final playoff spot from the West. MHS forced four Midget turnovers, nearly getting a fourth shutout. But the team struggled in pass defense and was held to its lowest scoring output of the season by eight points.
"We did not execute as a group of 11," Holmen said. "We were pretty good with nine or 10, but we had many, many missed opportunities that were simply one player or assignment or maybe two player assignments away from being a good play, a big play.
"I actually felt a little better about things after watching film. I was disappointed in our offensive output and focus last week and I think the kids were too."
Sophomore quarterback Ben Bolinske is improving each week and continues to be accurate on short- and medium-ranged throws. In each of the previous two games, he found senior Tre Kinchen for a touchdown of more than 30 yards. Fletcher said the JHS defensive line has 14 sacks.
"There's a young quarterback, but what we can see on film is he doesn't play like a young guy," Fletcher said.
MHS won last year's meeting 19-0.
MHS is loaded with speed at the skill positions and Larson isn't getting the routine carries he did as a sophomore. He's averaging less than four carries per game, but is using a beefed-up torso to deliver crushing lead blocks.
"He relishes that role of being the lead blocker and he'll take his turn when he gets it," Holmen said. "It's a big part of our offense. We're trying to get the edge plenty and you gotta have a guy who can run well and then engage in open space and then swing his hips a little bit. It takes a special kid to be able to do that."
With his foot in a boot, Larson spent much of last season and the offseason working on upper-body strength.
"I notice it a lot," he said. "I haven't gained a whole lot of weight since my last year, but I can tell strength-wise that definitely it's helped and been a big factor in some of the early success this year."
Larson is coming off a two-interception game against the Midgets and trucked a helpless opponent on one of the returns, but feeling comfortable on the field has taken time. He recorded a sack in the season opener against West Fargo, but was hampered with a calf strain in a cramp-filled night the following week at Davies. The pick-six against the Coyotes followed the next week.
"I can definitely tell at the beginning of the year, for the most part, I was a little slow," Larson said, "but, again, at week seven I feel like I'm back to where I was and should be, need to be.
"It's tough to be feeling 100 percent, especially in a sport like football where you're getting physical contact every single day, day in day out, even in practice and especially in games."
Junior linebacker Zach Danelson noticed less stress with the captain back to lead a talented group of young playmakers in the 3-5 defense.
"He's just right back like he was before his injury," Danelson said. "He's athletic, explosive, ready to play."
Larson is hoping college coaches see him the same way. He began receiving interest from North Dakota schools following his strong sophomore campaign, but knows missing his junior season likely stunted his profile.
"It's gonna boil down to school first and foremost," Larson said. "Four years of football is great, but there's obviously more to life than just four years of college football, so first thing you look for is a degree and then go from there for football programs. That's always the goal is to compete at the highest level you possibly can and I'm a real competitive guy, so obviously Division I is the main goal."
Holmen expects the interest to be significant come season's end.
"He can play somewhere and certainly he'll get his looks from a variety of places," Holmen said. "He's gotta work that out here after about six more weeks, but right now we're just focused on beating our next opponent and trying to improve our positioning for the playoffs."
Focusing on the now goes without saying for Larson, a mature student who draws as much respect off the field as he does on. He declined to specify any favorite college programs and quickly switched the subject back to tonight's game - one of at least two left for MHS fans to see the Magician excel at home.
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.