HOLMGREN: Minot High showed resolve during playoff run

GRAND FORKS – Think back to the months leading up to the 2011 football season.

Half of Barry Holmen’s coaching staff was flooded out. A quarter of his players faced the same reality.

On Friday, the Magicians played for the Class AAA state championship, ending a revitalizing playoff run.

They fell short to Fargo Davies, 41-10, at the Alerus Center in their first trip to the Dakota Bowl since 2006. But in so many ways, Minot represented the Magic City to the fullest.

“We’re all disappointed in the outcome,” said Holmen, Minot’s 10th-year coach, “but after that initial (hurt) and you sit back and reflect on what we just accomplished, they’ll be proud of themselves. I think we energized a whole city back home.”

To reach the championship, the Magicians (7-4) knocked off No. 3 West Fargo and top-ranked Bismarck – both on the road. They pitched shutouts in their final two regular-season games, just to lock up a playoff bid.

That’s Minot in a nutshell. It doesn’t give up. It scratches and claws and finds a way to be great.

“We’ve been down and out for a while in Minot. It’s truly taken years,” Holmen said. “We’re just fighting. We fight in Minot. And we’re coming back and we’re getting better.”

The Magicians showed that in the second quarter, when Davies (11-1) took a 7-3 lead on a quarterback sneak by senior Tristan Hartness, which capped a nine-play, 80-yard drive spanning 3:25.

Minot junior Ben Bolinske answered with a QB sneak of his own to put the West Region No. 3-seeded Magicians ahead 10-7 with 1:52 until halftime.

After junior Mason Hoffer’s extra point, the Eagles ran off 34 unanswered points to end the game.

But simply making a state championship appearance is an accomplishment for Minot.

Since the Magicians’ last state title, in 1980, they’ve only reached that stage four other times.

“We’re at a place we haven’t been in a while,” Holmen said. “I think that showed down the stretch.

“We got here because we’ve got a whole bunch of senior leadership and some young kids that are buying in. We played as a team. We’ve played as good of football in these last eight, nine quarters coming up to this than we’ve played in years. Really proud of our guys.”

That’s plenty to be proud of.

It hurts right now. For the seniors especially, the rest of the players, the coaches, parents and fans.

But that goes away. Just like the pain from the flood, it eventually goes away.

Like the hard work it takes to restore a city, it’s the hours of training put in to restore a football team into a state title contender that will be remembered.

Barry Holmen’s son, Jacob, lost to Fargo South in the state semifinals last year.

Now a freshman long snapper at the University of North Dakota, Jacob remembers everything but that loss when he recalls his high school football career.

“It’s so much more than just a game” Jacob said. “You’re out there with your best friends, playing the best game in the world. Nothing can compare to that.”

Minot is proud.

And the Magicians? They’ll be back.

“Our guys can do it,” Barry Holmen said. “We’ll keep plugging away and working toward that goal.”