The Minot High School football team will face a pass-heavy opponent for the first time this season in a nonconference game against Grand Forks Red River tonight.
The No. 4 Magicians (4-0) are on the road for the fourth straight week and coming off two consecutive shutouts. MHS has three total shutouts, but receives a new test with the Roughriders (2-2) and a competent aerial attack led by second-team all-state senior quarterback Chad Bartosh.
The 7:30 p.m. game is the second in a doubleheader at Cushman Field. Grand Forks Central hosts Fargo North at 4:30 p.m.
Minot High School sophomore defensive end Braydon Lund pursues Mandan quarterback Trever Leingang in the Magicians’ 47-0 win last week. Minot plays at Grand Forks Red River at 7:30 tonight.
"We have to be good in our total defensive effort," MHS coach Barry Holmen said. "The last couple weeks it's been run-dominated offenses that we were contending with and this week it's gonna be a little more balanced."
Red River comes off a 47-27 loss to Davies, who nearly dealt Minot a loss in a 34-27 overtime game in week two. Holmen expects Red River to run, but his run-stuffing 3-5 defense can expect a dose of run-fakes and play-action passes. Bartosh has thrown for 351 yards with four touchdowns and five interceptions. As a junior, he threw for 1,251 yards with 17 touchdowns and five picks.
"We have to be very aware of not giving up the big play over top by biting on the run-fake and trying to recover," Holmen said.
The MHS offensive and defensive lines have given up size all season and will again tonight. Both units started the season with little varsity experience, but are coming along quickly. The offensive line is still working to eliminate silly penalties and the defensive front continues to improve and ably take on double teams.
First-year nose tackle Braden Lach is embracing his role as the internal force and is eager to see how MHS will respond against a team comfortable with its passing game.
"Instead of just staying back and, kind of, getting our run reads and holding up linemen," Lach said, "we need to make more moves and get after the quarterbacks and put pressure on them to make it more difficult for them to pass. It should be a fun challenge to try to bust through some linemen and get after the quarterbacks."
Bartosh isn't the only Roughrider the Magicians need to corral. Junior running back Zach Ranisate is the second-leading rusher in the East Region with 310 yards and an average of 7.2 yards per carry.
Junior wide receiver Austin Reynolds emerged as one of the team's top scoring threats through the first four games. Reynolds has three touchdown receptions and may pose a greater problem in the return game. He's scored twice on his five kickoff returns, which total 227 yards.
"He's had two weeks in a row that he's returned a kickoff for us," Red River coach Vyrn Muir said. "He's probably our most dynamic player and we're gonna keep trying to find ways to get him the ball."
Offensively, Holmen wants to see sophomore quarterback Ben Bolinske better protected. Bolinske is handling pressure well and proving that he can improvise when flushed out of the pocket.
"He escaped pressure and was able to complete a couple early balls that helped change field position right away (last week),"
MHS senior running back Brady Lampert ran for more than 100 yards in each of the previous two games and leads the team with 382 yards on the ground. The Magicians are having success with multiple backs with just two returning starters on the line.
"I think we've improved a lot up front and it isn't always the big guy that wins the individual match up there, and so I think we're working better as a unit," Holmen said. "I think that's evident on film. We have some places where we have a double team that then we try to get to a linebacker. We're doing those combo blocks better than we did two or three weeks ago."
MHS senior defensive end Kolton Stevens is expected to play after missing two games with a knee injury. Senior cornerback Josh Pizzo has a foot injury and will be a game-time decision.
MHS returns home for its second home game as it hosts Dickinson next week for homecoming.
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.