Cougars, Cahill run rampant over Kenmare in the state quarterfinals

ROLLA – The opening kickoff from the Kenmare-Bowbells-Burke Central Honkers went roughly six inches. Whether it was supposed to be a surprise onside kick that went horribly wrong or the kicker just flat out missed the ball, it was a sign of things to come for the Honkers.

Undefeated North Prairie (10-0) rolled to a convincing 46-12 victory over Kenmare (8-3) Saturday afternoon on its home field in Rolla to reach the nine-man state semifinals.

“Our defense struggled in shutting them down,” Kenmare coach Matt Hove said. “We needed to secure the edge. We were down a middle linebacker, Jay Baumann was out, so we had to start a new linebacker and running back and that hurt us a lot.

“But North Prairie is a really good team. They got good players, executed plays well and are well coached. We just didn’t control the line of scrimmage like we needed to.”

North Prairie senior quarterback Brody Cahill put the offense on his legs. He carried the ball 19 times for 156 yards and four touchdowns. Junior running back Gabe Leonard rushed for 88 yards on 18 touches and added two touchdowns, along with four two-point conversions.

Sophomore Grant Munro added 35 yards to give the Cougars a total 279 yards on the ground. Cahill only completed one pass on two attempts for 14 yards.

“We got three guys that can run the football, and for any of those three, I’ll call any play at any time,” Cougars coach Patrick Wilkes said. “We had to come out and set the tone right away, be physical up front. Our offensive line played really well and we were able to move the football.”

North Prairie scored on both its possessions in the first quarter with a two-yard quarterback sneak from Cahill and a 13-yard run from Leonard. Each followed up their scores by running the ball back in for the two-point conversion.

The Cougars extended their early lead to 24-0 with 4:23 left before halftime. Kenmare, unable to stop the ground game all afternoon, couldn’t prevent Cahill from breaching the end zone from a yard out Leonard waltzed in on the next play for two more points.

Senior quarterback Hunter Rodin got Kenmare on the scoreboard as the first half winded down.

Rolling out of the pocket, Rodin found his senior wide receiver Kolton Jesz in one-on-one coverage. Jesz’s defender fell down and allowed an easy 20-yard touchdown pass. The two-point run attempt was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

Rodin went 20-for-29 throwing the ball for 235 yards, with Jesz racking up 123 yards on 10 catches.

With 2:32 left in the first half, North Prairie went back down the field on the next possession. Cahill, with the clock down to 14 seconds, powered across the goal line on another quarterback sneak from a yard out to give the Cougars a 32-6 lead at halftime.

North Prairie and Kenmare traded touchdowns in the third quarter. First, Cahill broke loose for a 34-yard rushing touchdown, his fourth of the game. Leonard ran in the two-point conversion.

Three minutes later, Rodin used his legs for a five-yard touchdown. The Honkers two-point attempt failed once more.

Without Baumann, Kenmare was lacking a dangerous playmaker and it showed. The Honkers put up a season-low 12 points.

“Injury problems throughout the year kind of kept us from operating at full capacity,” Hove said.

A running clock, since North Prairie led by over 30 points, made for a quick fourth quarter. Leonard capped off the scoring with a two-yard touchdown run, 46-12.

North Prairie advances to the state semifinals where it will face New Salem/Glen Ullin (9-1). That game will be played in New Salem with the winner moving on to play at the Fargodome for a state championship on Nov. 11.

“We were road warriors last year,” Wilkes said. “Hopefully we can do the same thing. Go to New Salem, a long trip, and hopefully win another one on the road.”

Alex Eisen covers Minot High School, Minot State athletics and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.