Going down swinging

MHS football fighting for pride against Dickinson

Justin Martinez/MDN Junior quarterback Jaxon Gunville scrambles out of the collapsing pocket during Minot High's practice Tuesday.

“Show me you still care.”

That was the challenge Minot High School head football coach Barry Holmen issued to his team after practice on Tuesday. The Magicians got their heart stomped on just four days earlier in a 42-28 loss to Mandan — a defeat that knocked Minot High out of the Class AAA playoff race for the first time since 1996.

“We’re certainly disappointed,” Holmen said. “A winning culture is a working culture, and I don’t think we put in enough work this season. We didn’t work hard enough at practice and in the weight room, and we didn’t progress enough to win in big moments.”

Now the Magi have to brave the frigid, 40-degree October air with nothing left to play for but pride as they prepared for their final conference game of the regular season against Dickinson on Thursday.

For junior quarterback Jaxon Gunville and company, that’s more than enough motivation.

“We just have to look deep down inside ourselves,” Gunville said. “We want to go out and win these last two football games. I think if we come out with a better focus we can do that.”

The tables have turned for the Magi, as they host a Dickinson team that’s still fighting for a playoff spot after going 1-8 last season. Dickinson kept its postseason hopes alive last week by defeating Williston, 34-28.

The team is led by senior Morgan Wardner, a dual-threat quarterback who leads the team in both passing and rushing yards and is responsible for half of Dickinson’s touchdowns this season.

It’ll be up to the Magi’s defense to minimize Wardner’s impact on the game and force someone else to beat them.

“We know that (Dickinson) is hungry,” Holmen said. “They have some really talented kids on the field, but I don’t think they’re as deep as some teams we’ve played. We have to take care of their explosive players and be disciplined.”

Discipline is also the name of the game for a Minot High offense that has seen far too many drives this season get halted due to unnecessary penalties. Dickinson allows an average of 35 points per game, and opportunities for big plays will be there for Gunville and his offense if they can take advantage.

“We’ve really been our own worst enemies at times,” Holmen said. “We have to minimize our penalties and play smarter because those little things add up.”

With the playoffs out of reach, the Magi plan to use their final two games as a launching pad into the offseason. Getting back to the top shelf of the West Region will be an uphill climb, but every win down the stretch is a step in the right direction.

“It would feel pretty good to finish strong,” Gunville said. “I think it would give us some momentum heading into next year, so that’s what we’re looking to do.”

Justin Martinez covers Minot High School and

Class B high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @JTheSportsDude.