Team mentality behind Minot’s reemergence
Eliminate the rat poison.
If there is an underlying mantra Minot High’s football program is using this season, it’s ‘eliminate the rat poison.’
Rat poison, a term coined by Nick Saban at Alabama, refers to all the outside noise and distractions that causes a team to lose focus during the week and prove detrimental. It can also refer to looking ahead on the schedule instead of preparing for this week’s opponent.
“We stress that to our kids,” said Minot head coach Chauncey Hendershot. “We can only take this one day, one practice at a time.”
If the results on the field are any indication, the team is all in on that mentality. In four games so far this season, they have pitched three shutouts on their way to outscoring opponents 144-12, including last week’s 30-0 rout of the 2022 Class AAA state runner-up Bismarck Century.
At Wednesday’s rain-soaked practice, players spoke of how expectations emerged during the middle of summer, even before lifting and camp started.
“Working throughout out the summer, we all knew what we had,” said quarterback Lucas Beeter. “We knew our squad. We knew we were tight, and so we knew coming in that we could be something special.”
Senior defensive lineman DeJarius Jones added, “I think last year those twelve points may have been just another twelve points, but this year, it is motivation to just get another shutout and keep going. Keep holding that standard.”
It was a sentiment echoed by running back Tyson Ruzicka, who is averaging nearly 100 rushing yards a game to go along with his seven touchdowns. “Every week, we increase expectations for ourselves. We don’t worry about what anybody else thinks,” said Ruzicka.
One thing the players never talked about was ‘I’. Everything was focused on the whole, and players were quick to praise their teammates and that selflessness is showing up on the field. Each week Minot hands out a defensive player of the week. Three out of four games this year, the award has gone to the whole defensive unit.
“Anyone that’s rolled in,” said Hendershot. “There’s a lot of selfless things going on, on the football field. You see Brady Larson make a tackle or Griffin Broderick fill a gap, Michael George coming untouched, or Landon Bedell come in tough on the blitz. You don’t see the linemen, like D.J. Jones, Jiovanni Perez and Dylan Huber, who are chewing up gaps to make that happen.”
The strong defensive play has not only given Minot High’s offense outstanding starting field position, but it has also changed the risk assessment process during play calling.
Early in last week’s Century game, the team faced multiple fourth and short situations. Confident the defensive unit could hold the Patriots if the Magi came up short, Hendershot checked with the defensive staff to see if they shared his confidence about going for it.
“They felt good about it. We had a good play. Let’s go,” said Hendershot.
According to Beeter, the defense’s success increased the overall confidence of the offensive unit.
“When adversity strikes and a turnover happens, anything happens that doesn’t go right on offense, I know my defense has my back and I can go out there and trust them to make the plays that keep us rolling,” said Beeter.
There’s a lot more rat poison forming around the Magi.
Last Friday, Shanley routed West Fargo Sheyenne 42-14, in a No. 1 vs. No. 2 matchup of East powers. Minot High moved up to second in the latest Class AAA NDAPSSA media poll, and there are increased expectations that go along with the ranking.
There’s also the schedule.
Aside from mid-October home matchup against Williston, who is winless in Class AA, the Magicians play three EDA teams including road trips to West Fargo Sheyenne and West Fargo. Their lone remaining Class AAA WDA team is Bismarck High. The Demons only loss on the season was an opening season loss to defending state champion Shanley.
Before the Magicians worry about any of those teams though, they must host Fargo Davies with the extra noise that comes with Homecoming week. The weather may also be a problem, as rain is in the forecast.
“We’re going to call it Magi weather, and we know they have to deal with it too,” said Hendershot.
Fargo Davies features young, athletic players that offer different looks on offense than what Minot High has seen before, according to Hendershot.
“Defensively, they line up in a lot of different sets. It’s going to be a battle on Friday,” said Hendershot.
For now, the coaches have been stressing not to get caught up in what the media is saying, so the players don’t start believing they are better than what they actually are.
“Our guys do a good job of it. We constantly remind them that all that matters is what we do on Friday night and executing,” said Hendershot. “That’s the only opportunity we get to prove anything.”