Magi host GFRR in playoffs

The Class AAA football playoffs are upon us.

The Minot High School football team, being the West Region regular season champions, will have the luxury of playing at Duane Carlson Stadium tonight in the quarterfinals against Grand Forks Red River.

The Magi are attempting to extinguish past demons this postseason after losing in the Dakota Bowl the last two seasons.

“Our kids are excited to be in this situation, and to be at home,’ MHS coach Barry Holmen said. “I believe that our team is ready to give it another run. The first step in that process is beating a Red River team that earned the right to be here.”

GFRR (4-5) claimed the fourth seed out of the East Region by holding the head-to-head tiebreaker over Fargo Davies with a Week 7, 39-17, win over the Eagles.

Minot High (7-2) and GFRR last played on Nov. 1, 2013. The Magi came away victorious, 48-20. But, for better reference, Minot also defeated Fargo Davies, 48-32, earlier this season in Week 2.

Records aside, the Magi aren’t taking the Roughriders lightly. Especially considering Minot nearly fell in the state quarterfinals last year to Fargo South, but were “fortunate to move on.”

“I don’t expect an easy contest at all,” Holmen said. “I think Red River is going to bring it. I think early in the contest we’re just going to have to see how they line up, how they bring pressure and all of that.

“There might be some exchanges of punts, and that’s not always bad. It’s OK to punt, but then we have to figure out what they are going to bring at us and make some adjustments.”

Looking over the film, Holmen pointed out the arm of senior GFRR quarterback Parker Wenzel (over 1,100 passing yards in the regular season) and the size of their defensive line.

“Our advantage all year long has been our depth up front,” he said. “I’m sure a couple of those guys go both ways (offense and defense) for them. So, we want to try and establish our running game, but I’m sure they are going to try and stop that first. We might see eight guys line up on the line of scrimmage.”

Teams have tried, and mostly failed, to slow down the Magi rushing attack all season. Minot racked up almost 2,200 rushing yards in the regular season with a running back by committee approach.

Senior Carter Anderson, the power back, started strong with five rushing touchdowns in the first three weeks. Senior Elijah Wickum and junior Dylan Danielson have filled in adequately by moving the chains and having an occasional long run.

But, the explosive playmaker in the backfield that came out of nowhere is senior Manuel Bradford. In the final two games of the regular season, Bradford stockpiled six rushing touchdowns.

He has over 700 yards on 45 carries. Nine of his 10 touchdowns this season have been escorted in from 25-plus yards out. Pretty effective for a running back that is still learning the offense.

“He is new to Minot,” Holmen said. “We actually started him on defense the first game. Over the next couple of weeks, we saw his skill set and we just felt like we needed to make a change and get him the ball.

“It has been a process of teaching him our offense. And certainly, in his short time, he doesn’t know all of our offense. But we have grown that offensive package that he can be a part of.”

Bradford’s emergence, however, doesn’t change the Magi’s game plan.

“We are going to use him and we are going to sub like we have done all year because I think our best strength is that we are diverse,” Holmen said.

As a result of pounding the football, combined with junior quarterback Creighton Rudolph stretching the field and finding his trio of receivers in senior Brett Lunde, junior Peyton Lamoureux and junior Lofton Klabunde, Minot had the highest scoring offense in WDA games putting up 38.4 points per contest.

They will look to put their high flying attack on full display tonight in front of their home faithful.

“It’s great that we can just go to school and when school is out, go get a nice pre-game meal four hours before the contest,” Holmen said. “We know that routine, so there is a little bit of comfort in that. That everybody can just do what they normally would do on a Friday night.”

Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.