DENEGA: Minot High captures 1st West Region title since 2007
No. 1 Minot High completed the first of its two season-long goals Wednesday night at Duane Carlson Stadium.
The Magicians took care of Goal 1 in their regular season finale, topping No. 5-ranked Dickinson with an authoritative 24-0 win to secure their first West Region title since 2007.
“It’s awesome,” Minot senior quarterback Ben Bolinske said. “It hasn’t really sunk in yet. It’s been a while since Minot brought that home. We’ll enjoy this one, but come back Monday ready to go to work.”
Now, Minot looks ahead to its most significant goal: avenging its runner-up finish in 2014 with a Dakota Bowl victory. Last year, the Magicians defeated two ranked opponents on the road in as many weeks to clinch their championship berth.
That won’t be the case this season, as Minot now has home-field advantage throughout the playoffs.
Here are my observations from Wednesday’s regular season finale:
Nagel runs wild
Much was made of Dickinson junior running back Tyrell Harris coming into Wednesday, and rightfully so. Harris was fresh off his second 200-yard rushing performance of the season, and was the focal point of Minot’s defense.
But it was the Magicians’ top back that crowded the spotlight.
Minot senior running back Austin Nagel, who has come on in the latter half of the season, ran for 163 yards on 26 carries. He also added a 17-yard touchdown – the first score of the game – on a screen pass from Bolinske.
“The line did a great job the entire night,” Bolinske said. “Late in the game we needed first downs to extend drives and run time off the clock, and our line played great and that’s why the end of the game went by so fast.
“It’s awesome to see those boys go to work.”
Nagel showcased everything in his arsenal, from power running to slippery movement to breakaway speed. He registered four runs that exceeded 16 yards.
“He’s a great back,” Holmen said. “He’s a power back.”
Nagel is just one of several offensive weapons for the Magicians, which makes them a scary-good team moving forward in the playoffs.
Defense steps up
Minot’s offense may have a plethora of weapons, but the defense, for lack of a better term, stole the show Wednesday.
The Midgets came into their regular season finale averaging just over 30 points per game, and were subsequently shutout for the first time all season. The Magicians held firm even with their backs up against a wall, as the Midgets started three drives inside Minot’s 30-yard line.
“Our defense, it seemed the entire night, had less than 50 yards to work with and they did an awesome job tonight,” Bolinske said.
Harris came in averaging over 162 yards per contest and was held in check with 113 yards, his second lowest output of the season in West Region play. Minot also limited Harris’ big runs, as he only recorded one scamper of more than 20 yards.
“That was plan for the defense,” Nagel said. “We knew he was fast and slippery and we knew we were going to give up some yards, but we wanted to stop the 50-yard runs and we did that tonight.”
Dickinson junior quarterback Shawn Steffan also didn’t have his most efficient night. He only competed three passes for 16 yards. He also threw two interceptions, which came on back-to-back drives in the second quarter. The first pick was credited to senior defensive back Logan Bischof, while the second went to Bolinske.
Minot’s defensive front pressured Steffan for a good portion of Wednesday’s contest, recording three sacks for a combined minus-46 yards.
“It was four-quarter battle,” Holmen said. “It’s a great job by our defense all night. Our coaches drew up a good plan and our kids responded and played really good team defense.”
Bolinske is one of the best quarterbacks in the state of North Dakota, and when he’s at his best, he hurts teams with his arm and his legs.
He did exactly that on Wednesday.
Bolinske threw for 141 yards and two scores on 7-of-11 passing. He also hurt the Midgets on the ground, gaining 68 yards on six carries, which included a 50-yard touchdown run.
The Magicians host Fargo South this Friday at 7 p.m. in their first home playoff game since hosting a quarterfinal win over Grand Forks Red River two years ago.
The rest of the West Region rounded out like this:
– After starting the season at 0-2 in region play, Century claimed the West’s No. 2 seed, and will host either West Fargo Sheyenne or defending state champion Fargo Davies. The Mustangs would secure the East’s No. 2 seed with a win this Saturday at Devils Lake, which would send the Eagles to Bismarck for their quarterfinal matchup.
– With its second region loss of the year, Dickinson fell to the No. 3 seed and travels to either Sheyenne or Davies for its quarterfinal bout. Again, if the Mustangs win at Devils Lake on Saturday, they’ll welcome the Midgets.
– Bismarck secured the fourth and final West Region playoff spot, and travels for a quarterfinal contest against East Region champion and No. 3-ranked West Fargo. The Demons and Packers already squared off this season on Sept. 4 in West Fargo, and the Demons came out with a 25-18 victory.
– The winner between Dickinson and Sheyenne/Davies would take on the winner of Minot-South at the home site of the highest seed. On the other half of the bracket, the winner of Bismarck-West Fargo would battle the winner of Century-Davies/Sheyenne in the other semifinal.
This is the opinion of sports reporter John Denega, a Minot Daily News staff writer. John covers Minot High sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @JohnDenega_MDN.