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Magi football aims for postseason return in ‘21

Ryan Ladika/MDN Magi receivers participate in a drill during Minot’s Aug. 9 morning practice at Duane Carlson Stadium.

Head coach Chauncy Hendershot’s Minot High football squad began their official preseason training camp on a rainy Aug. 9 morning. Practice was held in the school’s gymnasium for the first half of the morning due to the threat of lightning in the area, but the dreary weather could not dampen the coach and his team’s high spirits about the official return of football season.

The team a year ago completed a 2-5 campaign shortened by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, marking just the second losing season authored by the Magi since 1996.

Last year we had a group of guys that battled, and we have some kids who got valuable experience who are coming back and looking to change the overall record,” Hendershot said. “Last year was kind of a situation where we got into some games and other teams just made plays in crunch time.”

Despite the down year overall, there were some encouraging moments for Minot in 2020, namely the two dominant wins the team did earn. The Magi cruised past Dickinson by a 23-0 final score in Week 3 and dismantled Williston 39-14 in the season finale, ending the year on a positive note and leaving a stepping stone for improvement going forward.

Both the coaching staff and the players alike are now eager to put 2020 behind them and return to the promised land this fall.

With practice just getting started, Hendershot noted that throughout the first week the team will be focusing on continuing the strong work ethic he and his coaching staff have seen from their players during camps already held this summer.

“Our focus is to pick up the progress and the work that we’ve had through our summer strength camps,” he said. “It’s about our base installs and getting the x’s and o’s down, as well as getting everyone working together as a team. The next two weeks, we need to compete within the team but build that team camaraderie and that unified front that we’re going to need going into the season.”

The team will also be locking down final positions in the weeks leading up to the Aug. 27 season-opener against West Fargo, as well as ensuring everyone is up to speed on the playbook and working together as a unit. The two components will be crucial in the program achieving its lofty goal on the heels of a two-win season.

“Playoffs, for sure,” senior running back and defensive back Hunter Ruzicka said of the team’s goal. “We think we have a real shot this year, we might actually get to see the ‘ship and hold up that trophy at the end, but we all still have to put in the work. We can’t just expect it to happen.”

Ruzicka will be among the team leaders this season along with fellow senior and starting quarterback Trevor Emke. Other returning veterans the Magi will lean on include Kaleb Spitzer and Kaydn Turnbow.

In his shortened junior season, Ruzicka still accrued 362 rushing yards and a pair of touchdowns on 60 carries, good for the 11th-most yards in the Western Dakota Association. Emke was also among the conference leaders in 2020, throwing for 640 total yards, fifth-most in the WDA, and three touchdowns in Minot’s seven games.

“Spitzer is a returning starter up front in the offensive line and has some solid in-game experience,” Hendershot added. “Defensively, Turnbow, who’s going to be a junior this year, started for us all last year. And then across the board, we have a number of guys who were either a two or three on the depth chart last year who are looking to take a jump and compete here in fall camp.”

As long as each member of the team knows, and is confident in, their role not just in the opener, but throughout the 2021 campaign, Ruzicka said, Minot will be good shape to realize their expectations come October.

“We have to be able to communicate, make sure everybody knows their jobs on the field, and we have to have good leaders everywhere,” Ruzicka continued. “Coach (Hendershot) is making sure everybody knows their job, because if we know our job, we’re all going to be good. That’s going to be the key to our success.”

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