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Bishop Ryan reloads for 2021

Robert Brewer/MDN Bishop Ryan senior Zach Hendrickson practices on his punting skills during an August training camp session. Lions head coach Roger Coleman says Hendrickson will be expected to play a variety of positions this coming season.

Rather than taking on a rebuilding mindset this fall, the Bishop Ryan Lions and fifth-year head coach Roger Coleman fully expect to reload for another run at the state title.

Last year, Bishop Ryan’s quest for a Class A state championship ended in the semifinal round of the postseason against eventual champion Langdon Area-Edmore Munich. Langdon was the same team that denied Bishop Ryan in the state championship round back in 2019.

According to Coleman, this year’s Lions squad remains undeterred in their hunt for a state crown despite recent playoff setbacks against a familiar foe.

“Our goal is to win our region, and that hasn’t changed at all,” Coleman tells The Minot Daily News. “Once the playoffs start, I feel like we will be ready to compete with anyone. I expect us to play fast and physical all year long.”

In preparation for this fall, the Lions began training camp on Aug. 5, a few days earlier than usual. With six seniors lost to graduation, Coleman says it was good to get a head start on camp as it helped to incorporate the returning players into expanded roles.

One key player returning for the Lions in 2021 is senior wide receiver Zach Hendrickson. An All-Region performer as a junior, Hendrickson caught 23 passes for 452 yards and six touchdowns in 2020. Known for his big play capability, Hendrickson’s 19.7 yards per reception average ranked second on the team last year.

The 5-foot-11 inch senior will have big shoes to fill as last year’s Bishop Ryan senior duo of Jaxon Feller and Logan Merck combined for a total of 43 all-purpose touchdowns in 2020. Coach Coleman says he plans to utilize Hendrickson’s skills in multiple ways this coming season.

“He’s going to play all over the field for us. Wideout, running back, quarterback and special teams, we just want the ball in his hands as much as possible,” the Lions coach adds.

Speaking of quarterback, Bishop Ryan will also be looking to fill the void left by last year’s starting senior Nick Sanders, who threw for 24 touchdowns against just four interceptions. With backup passer Merck also moving on due to graduation, freshman Jett Lundeen is the only roster holdover with experience at the quarterback position last year.

In 12 games as an eighth grader, Lundeen completed 13 of 21 passes for 163 yards and one touchdown. Meanwhile, Coach Coleman says Lundeen has enjoyed a productive training camp and will be the team’s starting quarterback going into the year.

Key returning players include senior outside linebacker and tight end Josh Will, who, like Hendrickson, was an All-Region player a year ago. A consistent playmaker on the defensive side of the ball for the Lions in 2020, Will led the team in sacks with six. The Second-Team All-State selection also posted 13.5 tackles for loss a year ago, second-best among Bishop Ryan defenders.

Also at linebacker, senior Rylan Vibeto will look to provide a physical presence for the Lions. His 48 tackles a year ago was second on the team, and Vibeto also totaled 4.5 tackles for loss and two pass breakups. Other returning two-way players include All-Region honorable mention senior lineman Jacob Fricke, sophomore lineman Coy Okeson, junior Brett McKay and senior lineman Steven Fred.

Following an 18-12 weekend loss to Dickinson Trinity on Aug. 20, Bishop Ryan plans to travel to Rugby and Des Lacs-Burlington for its next two games on Aug. 27 and Sept. 3 before hosting South Prairie on Sept. 10.

After that, the Lions will be in Glenburn to take on Westhope/Newburg/Glenburn on Sept. 17 followed by the Homecoming Game against Stanley on Sept. 24. Bishop Ryan will play its final road contest of the regular season at New Town on Oct. 1, and wrap up its schedule with home games against Velva and Nedrose on Oct. 8 and 15.

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