Homecoming has an extra special ring to it for the Minot High School football team this year.
The No. 3 Magicians (5-0 overall, 2-0 West Region) finally return home to Duane Carlson Stadium after four straight games on the road.
MHS hosts Dickinson (3-2, 1-2) at 7 p.m. tonight. The Magicians last played at home in their season opener against West Fargo on Aug. 30.
Minot High School sophomore Braydon Lund tries to catch a pass at practice on Thursday at Magic City Campus.
"We're excited to get up on that field," MHS senior tight end Jacob Holmen said. "I consider it the best field in the state. It's just fun to go up there. It's a good atmosphere every night and it just makes it a little better that it's homecoming."
For the second straight week, MHS will face an offense it's not especially familiar with. The Midgets are in their first season under head coach John Tuchscherer and will test the region's top defense with a spread offense.
MHS posted three shutouts in the first five games and boasts a state-low average of 9.6 points allowed per contest. Dickinson is led by junior quarterback Charles Splichal and senior all-state running back Michael Cherwinski.
"We have some challenges because we've never played against their particular style and it's a spread style where the quarterback is certainly a key runner in the whole mix," MHS coach Barry Holmen said, "so you gotta make sure you stop the quarterback's running as well as his ability to pass, which is good."
The Midgets are coming off a 42-7 rout of Mandan. Splichal finished 9 of 13 for 150 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 40 yards and a score on nine carries against the Braves. It was the quarterback's first varsity start following a three-week absence because of a concussion.
"He made a mistake early, but after that he did a pretty good job of controlling the offense," Tuchscherer said. "We were able to do some nice things and we're looking for him to not make so many mistakes."
The Magicians remained undefeated with a penalty-plagued 41-21 win at Grand Forks Red River last week. It was only the second game of the season that saw the defense surrender points. MHS limited the Roughriders' top rushers, but gave up 213 yards and two touchdowns through the air.
"We have our hands full," Barry Holmen said. "(Dickinson uses) double slot. They're in the pistol (formation) and their offense is based on some deception as well as some vertical and crossing-route options. They stretch you vertically and as well as horizontally and because their quarterback is a good runner, you have to be disciplined."
Barry Holmen saw a physical Dickinson team on film and was impressed with the way the Midgets hung with Century and Bismarck High in losses to the capital powerhouses. DHS trailed the Demons by eight points in a low-scoring first half before losing 44-12. The Midgets fell behind by 10 in the first half of a 23-3 loss to the Patriots.
MHS looks to remain balanced on offense, which looked easy through the first half of the season. Sophomore quarterback Ben Bolinske proved he can throw consistently and senior running back Brady Lampert rushed for more than 100 yards in each of the previous three games.
"I think we've made progress each week and that's important that we continue to improve," Barry Holmen said. "We're excited to play at home. We hope that we play well and we're happy not to be on a bus now for about three weeks. The kids are excited to play in front of their home crowd too."
The Magicians share undefeated records with Bismarck High and Century. The Patriots lead the other two by half a game in the standings with three West Region wins.
"(Minot is) a big football team," Tuchscherer said. "They've got a lot of speed from what I've seen. Defensively, we're gonna have to have 11 guys to the football all the time. We just gotta make sure we're sure on our tackles."
Tim Chapman covers Minot High School athletics. Follow him on Twitter @chapmatp.