Minot tries to right ship against Williston

Justin Martinez/MDN Junior quarterback Jaxon Gunville gets rid of the ball as the defense closes in during Minot High's practice on Tuesday.

Not much was said on the bus ride back from Bismarck by the Minot High football team on Sept. 7.

The Magicians (1-2, 0-1) came into their matchup against the Demons with hopes of shocking one of the best teams in the state, but that goal got emphatically shut down in front of a rowdy crowd at the MDU Resources Community Bowl. Bismarck’s offense decimated the Magi defense, amassing a season-high 519 total yards.

The same couldn’t be said of Minot’s offense as quarterback Jaxon Gunville and company faced a constant swarm of maroon and grey jerseys, totaling a season-low 181 yards. When the final whistle blew, the scoreboard read 42-7 in favor of the Demons.

Now the Magi had a two-hour drive back home to let the loss settle in, and the usual chatter and laughter were replaced with an air of silence. For Gunville, it’s a feeling he doesn’t want to experience again.

“I think it was a huge wake up call,” Gunville said. “We didn’t really have any idea what we were getting ourselves into that game. We gave up too many big plays on defense and we made too many bad decisions on offense. It was a reality check for all of us.”

By the time the Magi stepped off the bus in Minot late that night, it was back to the grind. The team shook off the tough loss and got back to work on Monday, reviewing film from the game to see what went wrong.

The Magi then spent the rest of the week on the field and in the weight room, preparing for the next battle.

“We’ve definitely stepped it up this week in practice,” Gunville said. “Our energy is a lot higher, and we’re ready for a chance to get back on track.”

That chance is just one day away as Williston comes to town Friday for a battle between two teams determined to get their season back on track. The Coyotes (1-2, 0-0) enter the match with hopes of rebounding from a blowout loss of their own after getting dismantled by Grand Fork Central, 39-13, on Sept. 7.

Although the season is young, the stakes are already high as Minot looks to avoid an 0-2 start in conference play.

“This is a big game for us now,” head coach Barry Holmen said. “We just weren’t good enough last week, and our kids see now that we have to up our game because we don’t want to go 0-2 in conference play.”

The Magi defense is going to have its hands full as it attempts to contain Williston quarterback Charlie Whitlock. The 6-foot-1 sophomore is known for letting it fly with the football, averaging 204 passing yards per game this season.

Minot’s ability to place pressure on Whitlock could prove key. Williston’s offense is prone to self-inflicted damage, a weakness that was revealed on Aug. 24 when the Coyotes turned the ball over 11 times against Fargo South.

It’s this chink in Williston’s armor that the Magi defense hopes to exploit after a string of recent disappointing performances.

“Their young quarterback can really chuck it,” Holmen said. “We need to take away those big plays, force some long third downs and hopefully limit their ball possession if we want to get that first conference win.”

The match also marks a chance for Minot to get its first home win of season after suffering a 42-22 loss to Fargo Davies in their home opener on Aug. 24. It’s a loss that gives Gunville and company a sense of unfinished business as they gear up for Friday’s showdown.

“We’re really motivated to win at home,” Gunville said. “We have such a good student section and a lot of parents and other fans that always show us love. We want to put on a good performance and show them what Minot football can do.”

Justin Martinez covers Minot High School and Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.