With his first- and second-team defenses on the field, Jerry Danelson had something to say following nearly every snap of Tuesday's scrimmages at Herb Parker Stadium.
More often than not, the Minot High School defensive coordinator was barking out praise for junior nose tackle Braden Lach. The 5-foot-9, 198-pounder routinely held up double teams and even pushed the middle of opposing lines back.
Lach knew the Magicians would be loaded at linebacker this season, so he began thinking about a move to the defensive line during the offseason. MHS graduated most of the regulars on last year's front, including first-team all-state selection Tanner Gust.
Minot High School junior nose tackle Braden Lach bears down on Velva senior quarterback Drew Effertz, not pictured, in Tuesday’s scrimmage at Herb Parker Stadium.
"I thought it'd be a good position to try out and talked to coaches about it and went through with it," Lach said. "It seems to be going pretty well."
Danelson and defensive line coach Lloyd MacDonald agree with the self-assessment of their quick learner.
"He's a strong kid, short to the ground and he's quick off the ball," Danelson said. "It's been a great surprise for us so far this fall."
MHS Depth Chart
1. Ian HydeSr.6-2214
2. Cole LongJr.6-1230
1. Braden LachJr.5-9198
1. Jacob HolmenSr.6-2195
2. Braden LindquistJr.6-2219
Also playing on the DL: Kolton Stevens, Joey Mau, Isaiah Crowe, Clay Poole, Michael Lambert, Dustin Lakefield, Grant Larson, Nathan Hewitt, Tyler Steenerson, Joey Rensvold.
Said MacDonald: "He follows the cues, reads the linemen in front of him and just does football moves. He's a smart kid, obviously. ... He's just got a low center of gravity. He gets below the offensive linemen, so (he) gives them fits because he's so low to the ground, and he's got a good base and a good trunk."
MacDonald is still evaluating the rest of the linemen for three- and four-man fronts. The Magicians like going with five experienced linebackers, which will remain a favorable look if Lach continues to thrive. Lach only added about five pounds in the offseason with a focus on learning the technique ahead him. He also will serve as the team's backup kicker and backup long snapper.
"It's not easy," said Lach, also an aspiring guitarist, "but, you know, you just have to hold your ground and stay there as long as you can and don't let that second guy get off to the backer, and that frees up a lot of space and they can really get in there and make tackles."
Vocal leader Ian Hyde is a likely starter at end, having seen time as a junior.
"Ian Hyde played really well today too," MacDonald said. "He had a good couple of series. He reads his tackle well, comes down the line and made some plays on the inside."
Senior Jacob Holmen and junior Braden Lindquist will be in rotation. Senior Kolton Stevens, a 6-4 transfer from Detroit, has been lauded as a quick learner by coaches and based on size and athleticism looks like a natural fit at end. Junior newcomer Cole Long is another player expected to see significant time.
Last year's more experienced defensive line had a rotation of five players. MacDonald said as many as seven players could be in the rotation.
Putting four players on the line will depend on who MHS is playing and in-game situations. MacDonald said big bodies are likely to be added in short-yardage and goal-line scenarios. With two all-state inside linebackers - senior Kolton Larson and junior Zach Danelson - and three other returning starters rounding out that group, MacDonald will emphasize a simple approach for his guys.
"We're not asking our D line to be dominant, 'Just do your job. We got really good players behind you that are really fast, who can make plays.' "
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.
Editor's note: This is part six of an eight-part series breaking down each unit of the Minot High School football team. Offensive linemen will be featured in Saturday's paper.