MARTINEZ: Breaking down the collapse of Minot High football

The only similarity between last season’s Minot High football team and this season’s group is the jersey.

The Magicians came up one win short of a Class AAA State Championship last season, losing to West Fargo, 56-28. Now in all fairness, fans of the Magi knew better than to expect that level of success this season.

The Magi got a major roster shakeup, losing all but two of their starters from the year prior. Such a turnaround is bound to come with growing pains. But, with only two games left in the 2018 regular season and an abysmal 2-6 overall record, it’s mostly just been pain.

You know the stats by now. Minot High is out of the playoff race for the first time since 1996. Minot High will finish below .500 this season for the first time since 1998. Minot High has lost games by an average of three possessions.

The list goes on and on.

But, this isn’t a column meant to bash the Magi. Rather, it’s a column meant to address what has gone wrong and where the team has to improve as it attempts to begin its slow ascent from the bottom of the conference to the the upper hierarchy it once occupied.

The Offense

Minot High’s offense lacks discipline and chemistry.

The team has had more penalties against itself than its opponents in every game this season. False starts and unnecessary holding plays are brutal, especially for a young offense that already struggles to move the ball consistently in the first place.

The Magi also have a wildly inconsistent connection on snap exchanges. Whether it’s on punting plays or lining up in the shotgun formation, there have been far too many instances when quarterback Jaxon Gunville, a dual-athlete who also plays basketball, is forced to show his vertical leap just to snag a bad snap out of the air.

A big reason for both the offenses’ lack of discipline and chemistry was initially attributed to all the new faces on the group. But, with eight games now played together this season, it’s become a matter of bad habits rather than inexperience.

The Defense

Minot High’s defense looked to be the team’s biggest strength after a 6-0 win in Week 1 against defending state champions, West Fargo. But that outing is now far less impressive as the Packers are currently 1-6.

Since the win, the Magi’s defense has surrendered an average of 35 points per game. The team has also allowed 166 points in its five conference games so far, which is tied for the most allowed in the region.

The biggest chink in the defenses’ armor is the left side of its defensive line. This weakness got exposed in Week 2 when Fargo Davies’ Isaac Balvitsch ran for a ludicrous 192 yards and three scores. The Magi had no answer as the majority of Balvitsch’s 21 carries attacked the left side.

Opposing offenses have taken advantage of Minot High’s inability to stop the run all season, rushing for an average of 205 yards per game.

What’s Next?

In a way, these last two games hold far greater implications for the Magi now that their hopes of making the playoffs are out the window. Let’s be honest, the thought of squeezing into the playoffs and toppling a team such as Bismarck High or Bismarck Century was a pipe dream.

The 22-year playoff streak is over. The top-dog mentality of the team that reached the Class AAA state championship last season is long gone. All that’s left is the cold, bitter truth: Nothing is a given anymore.

For the first time in two decades, Minot High is the underdog on a weekly basis. How the Magi finish this nightmare of a season will dictate just how much bite and fortitude they have left in them.

This is the opinion of Justin Martinez. He covers Minot High School sports and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.

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