JONES: Craziness continues in Region 3 football
This year’s Class A Region 3 football season has been one of the most entertaining spectacles I’ve ever been witnessed in all my years as a sports writer, a run that stretches more than a decade and covers two states.
And in the thick of postseason play, we still aren’t done talking about these local teams.
Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn and Velva-Sawyer both won their opening round playoff games last weekend. Combine that with region champion Bishop Ryan having the week off, and Region 3 boasts three of the final eight teams still alive in Class A.
It gets even more interesting considering the matchups.
Velva and Ryan will square off for the second time this season in the last of Saturday’s quarterfinal games – which kicks off at 6 p.m. at Herb Parker Stadium – while W-N-G travels for a 1 p.m. battle at No. 3-ranked Killdeer. Should the Sioux win their game, Region 3 would be assured of a Dakota Bowl berth for the first time since 2012, as the winner between W-N-G and Killdeer would face Velva-Ryan winner in next week’s semifinals.
With the likes of seniors Chase Conway and Reese Schell, the Sioux appear to have more weapons than Killdeer, but the Cowboys are a physically sound football team that makes very few mistakes, especially on defense. Defense usually takes over at this time of year, so I’m giving Killdeer a slight edge.
The showdown between the Lions and Aggies is a Copper Bowl rematch. Velva won the first bout convincingly by a 36-6 final score on Sept. 18.
But that game has served as a turning point for Ryan, as the Lions have gone 4-0 since en route to a region title, scoring at least 31 points in three of those games.
Ryan seemingly has revenge on its mind, but the Lions insist they aren’t looking at it that way.
“We’re not worrying about anybody else,” Ryan quarterback Eli Stewart said.
Stewart’s mindset is a smart one, as lengthy layoffs have a tendency of killing momentum. By the time Saturday evening’s contest kicks off, it will have been 15 days since the Lions last played a game.
On the other hand, Velva has found its own momentum following its 23-22 upset win at No. 5-ranked Hazen last week. The Lions’ week off may have given them a necessary rest, but the Aggies meanwhile gained another chunk of experience for their underclassmen.
While I’m not totally sold on how the Velva-Ryan matchup will play out, I do know it will be a lot closer than the 30-point affair both teams played last month.
Ryan will have to play better in the trenches on both sides of the ball. In its first meeting with Velva, Ryan senior running back Aaron Sandy had trouble getting going, as he finished with just 56 rushing yards on 17 carries. On the other side of the ball, the Aggies executed a 10-minute drive in the second half, which ultimately wore down Ryan’s defensive front.
In order for the Lions to have success Saturday night, they’ll also need to mix in the passing game like they have throughout their current four-game winning streak.
Quarterback play hasn’t been an issue for Velva this season, as Shad Vedaa has been huge. The senior quarterback rushed for three touchdowns last week in the Aggies’ win over the Bison. If you mix in senior running back Kobe Bright – who is another week removed from a sprained ankle – the Aggies may have a 1-2 punch that could be too much for the Lions to overcome.
Again, I’m not sure what happens Saturday night, but anything short of entertaining would be a disappointment.
This is the opinion of Mark Jones, a Minot Daily News staff writer. Mark covers high school and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @hoopsfan27_MDN.