Ben Bolinske will have many first experiences as he continues in his new role as starting quarterback for Minot High School.
The sophomore made his first start against Davies last week and notched his first comeback win. The fourth-ranked Magicians (2-0 overall, 0-0 West Region) trailed by seven in the final minute before Bolinske scored on a 3-yard run to force overtime. He threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Jacob Holmen for the winning score.
He still awaits his first start at home as tonight's 7 p.m. game against Williston (0-2, 0-0) was moved to the Coyotes' home field earlier in the week. An error in the Class AAA master schedule originally had the region opener at Duane Carlson Stadium. The change means MHS will be on the road for four consecutive weeks before hosting Dickinson on Oct. 4.
Minot High School sophomore quarterback Ben Bolinske prepares for a play against West Fargo earlier this season at Duane Carlson Stadium. Bolinske will make his second start tonight at Williston.
"Nobody else has to do that and that's a tough deal," MHS coach Barry Holmen said. "We got back at 4:15 in the morning Saturday, so it takes a toll on the bodies and everybody - coaches and players - and your personal time is just totally lost. We gotta get in better shape, but we gotta get 'em rest and that's a tough task."
Rest will come easier this weekend if MHS can soundly beat the team picked last in the region's preseason coaches poll. Williston is coming off a 28-6 loss to rival Sidney (Mont.). The Magicians beat the Coyotes 42-0 in 2012.
"They are big and they always are physical and they like to put lots of bodies at the line of scrimmage," Holmen said. "They'll stunt like crazy and they'll force you to pass to beat (them). Just in recent history, it's hard to win football games in Williston."
Passing should not be a problem, but MHS will continue to feature a deep backfield. Holmen described his play-calling as too conservative at points in the Davies game. MHS passed for just 36 yards and ran for 267 yards. The team will try a more balanced approach similar to the season opener, a 27-0 win over West Fargo.
Bolinske and senior Alex Yanosko - who suffered a season-ending ACL tear - combined to throw for 125 yards against the Packers and the team ran for 192 yards.
"I thought (Bolinske) did real well (last week) and I think coaches are better understanding what he can do well and what we have to limit him in," Holmen said. "We're just trying to take an approach that we have other athletes to share the ball with and there are times when we need Ben to step up and make plays and so he's got to be part of that sharing process."
At 161 pounds, Bolinske is about 50 pounds lighter than Yanosko and not nearly as dangerous as the bruising senior was in the run game. Bolinske ran for a touchdown in each game and threw for two scores against Davies.
He said he's learning to read coverages better and has benefited from studying film.
"I can definitely improve on my fakes to the running back," Bolinske said. "Some of my passes were a little bit wiggly, so I've got to spiral those out a little more. I don't know, I think everything else was decent."
Senior tailback Brady Lampert has shouldered the rushing load through both games, with 77- and 79-yard performances. Senior wideout Kimani Benjamin led the rushing game against Davies, finishing with 113 yards on seven carries. Benjamin, one of the fastest players on the team, provides an explosive alternative on sweeps. He had a 53-yard touchdown run last week.
"I love it," Benjamin said. "It really felt good running the jet sweep because it gives the defense more to scheme on, so it's harder for them."
Third-year Williston coach Jim Klein said the Coyotes need to limit the Magicians' time of possession and listed limiting the impact of senior fullback Kolton Larson as a priority. Larson leveled the key block on a Davies' safety to spring Benjamin on the long touchdown run.
"Our defense has played fairly well for two games," Klein said. "We kind of wore out last week against Sidney. They ran probably 90 plays to our 45. That's another key to the game - we need to have some sustained drives."
Fatigue and cramping played a role in the defensive struggles for MHS last week. Senior lineman Joey Rensvold said basic miscues should be corrected tonight.
"Offensively, we know they have big, physical guys up front," Rensvold said. "They're not very fast, but they're physical and that's gonna present a challenge."
MHS is without senior defensive end Kolton Stevens, who suffered an MCL sprain in his right knee against Davies. Stevens expects to return for next week's game at Mandan.
Conditioning is still an issue with MHS, but the game-time temperature is forecast to be 79 degrees, about 10 degrees cooler than the start of the Magicians' previous two games. The biggest advantage from the early season heat was more players gained experience as fresh bodies became a necessity.
"Some of them didn't expect to get on the field like they did and so I thought we were pleased with a portion of that part of the (Davies) game," Barry Holmen said.
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.