Playoffs pending: MHS football in with a win over Dickinson

Making the Class AAA playoffs for a 21st consecutive season seemed like a done deal last week Friday when the Minot High School football team toppled Mandan 35-20 at Duane Carlson Stadium.

Mathematically, however, the Magicians (4-3, 3-2 West Region) haven’t punched their ticket just yet — regardless of the premature celebration posts made on Twitter or even the Western Dakota Association website stating otherwise.

There are multiple ways in which Minot can reach the postseason, but the simplest way for the Magi to do so is by winning their final conference game of the season tonight on the road against Dickinson (1-6, 1-3 West Region).

A victory firmly slots Minot into the No. 3 seed out of the West Region.

“We are not in yet. The only team that can knock us out now is Dickinson,” MHS coach Barry Holmen said. “It’s no fun going to Dickinson. I’d rather have them come here because Dickinson is always a tough place to win at. We are playing on a Thursday night, so a short week of prep and a difference in routine. We are working hard to address that and make sure we are ready.”

To make up for the six-day turnaround, Minot practiced on Sunday and scaled back some of the running, weight lifting and conditioning in general to make up for not having that extra day to recover.

It’s a challenge that both teams needed to face this week.

“The same amount of preparation, but a lot less time,” senior lineman Patrick Richardson said. “We get the same amount of practices, but it’s a little bit harder on the short weeks.”

History heavily favors Minot in tonight’s contest. The Magi bolster an impressive 16-game winning streak over Dickinson. For Holmen, however, that’s a rather meaningless side note.

“If you don’t tell them, then they don’t know that. So, (we) don’t tell them,” he said about the streak. “It doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is Thursday night. This group against that group.”

And underestimating an opponent isn’t an option.

“You always got to be ready,” Minot senior receiver and defensive back Peyton Lamoureux. “You can’t overlook anybody, no matter what. Anybody can beat anyone any given night.”

Dickinson proved that last week, getting their first win of the season against Williston.

Prior to beating the Coyotes 29-13, the Midgets had given up at least 23 points in every contest this season. In seven games this year, Dickinson has been outscored 194-79.

Minot’s defense has shown flashes of what they are capable of with shutouts against Williston and Legacy, but they still have given up 20 or more points in their other five games.

The Magi could have held Mandan to single-digits last week, but the Braves added two late fourth-quarter touchdowns when Minot went to the bench to provide some minutes for the younger players.

“What I didn’t like was they had the ball an awful lot,” Holmen said about the victory over Mandan. “But, that said, our defense was great down in the red zone and on the goal line. That really made a huge difference in the outcome of the game… We want the ball more. We would like to get more three and outs. We need to get stops on third downs and the occasional fourth and one.”

Holmen also emphasized the importance of consistency for Minot moving forward.

“We have to maintain a high level of play,” he said. “If we take another dip, I think our chances of doing well in the playoffs aren’t very good at all.”

Minot has traded wins and losses all season, a victory tonight would match its season-high two-game win streak. Meanwhile, on the other sideline, Dickinson is still in the playoff hunt with one win.

The Midgets hypothetically could finish the conference season with a 3-3 record by getting wins over Minot and No. 3-ranked Bismarck High in their regular season finale. If that was the case, then Minot would also finish with a 3-3 record in the West Region and lose the head-to-head tiebreaker with Dickinson.

“We can’t make it too big (of a game), but we got to earn our spot in the playoffs,” Lamoureux said.

The Midgets scored in all facets of the game last week. Quarterback Antonio Nunez tossed a touchdown to Conner Hoenke, tailback Martin Lopez ran in for six points, kicker Nagi Williams knocked through a field goal, Tristan Pelton had a pick-six and Hoenke returned an 83-yard kickoff for a score.

“There is a lot of quality kids on their team,” Holmen said. “They have had struggles winning games, but there are a lot of quality individuals there.”

Holmen hopes the Magi can use their size in the trenches to get the upper hand.

“Offensively, we think we have an advantage up front,” he said. “So, we want to try and control the line of scrimmage… We want to be physical and establish a run game.”

That mindset and game plan starts with offensive linemen like Richardson, who has been creating holes for a trio of senior running backs this season in Brett Davis, Adrian Davis-Aguilar and Dylan Danielson. All three rushed for a touchdown last week against Mandan.

“We are going to have to recognize formations and make sure we are getting good blocking up front,” Richardson said was going to be his biggest challenge this week.

The Magi’s test to secure a playoff spot gets underway at 7 p.m. this evening in Dickinson.

Then, another short week awaits, as Minot closes out the regular season Wednesday in a nonconference game against Grand Forks Red River at Duane Carlson Stadium. It remains to be seen if Minot will have a vested interest in scoreboard watching next week.

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