9 man football: Rested Pirates meet up with soaring EaglesThere are plenty of circumstances that high school football coach’s will point to that will tend to make some type of positive difference in the outcome of an upcoming playoff game. Two of those circumstances are rest and momentum. The Kidder County Pirates currently have their share of rest, not having played a game since Oct. 7, while the North Border Eagles are rolling, having won their last six games after last Saturday’s 36-6 opening-round 9-man playoff victory over Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page in Pembina.
By: Michael Savaloja, The Jamestown Sun
There are plenty of circumstances that high school football coach’s will point to that will tend to make some type of positive difference in the outcome of an upcoming playoff game.
Two of those circumstances are rest and momentum.
The Kidder County Pirates currently have their share of rest, not having played a game since Oct. 7, while the North Border Eagles are rolling, having won their last six games after last Saturday’s 36-6 opening-round 9-man playoff victory over Finley-Sharon-Hope-Page in Pembina.
So the big question is, will it be Kidder County’s extra week of preparation and recovery that will make the difference against the Eagles in Walhalla on Saturday, or will it be the Eagles’ “Big Mo” that prevails?
Kidder County’s third-year head coach Jack Biesterfeld didn’t have a choice in the matter, so he’s going with an extra week to prepare. The Pirates finished the regular season with a 50-19 win over Shiloh Christian in Steele 15 days ago, and earned a first-round bye for the playoffs after earning the second seed in Region 1 with a 6-2 overall record.
“The bye week was very nice. We took that to go back to what you kind of do in preseason practices,” Biesterfeld said. “We worked on a lot of basic things that you don’t normally have the time to do during the week, and hopefully it helps us out.”
Other than the circumstances under which the two teams are entering the game, the Eagles (6-4, No. 2 Region 3) and the Pirates have their share of similarities this season, most notably on the offensive side of the ball. Both teams excel at running the football, and they both have plenty of capable running backs to get the job done.
North Border running backs Beau Brown and Dylan Masloski combined for 331 rushing yards during last week’s 30-point victory over the Spartans, with Brown garnering 229 yards and four touchdowns on 13 carries and Masloski accounting for 102 yards on 23 carries.
It doesn’t end there for the Eagles. Senior running back Brent Dalzell also rushed for 68 yards and a score in the game, and Biesterfeld expects to see all three backs trying to find success against Kidder County’s defense.
“As a team they run the ball very well, so we want to stop the run first,” Biesterfeld said. “They play kind of a wing-type offense. Their fullback runs the ball extremely hard, and their wings have very good speed.
“We’ll need to tackle well in space. That will be a big key to the game,” Biesterfeld added. “Their line seems to do a very good job getting hats on people, so we’ll need to do a good job getting to the football and tackling well.”
Kidder County, on the other hand, currently has five backs that are all around the 300-yard mark in rushing yards this season. Those athletes include senior quarterback Cody Wahl, senior running back Norman Nicholson, freshman fullback Tanner Kessel, sophomore fullback/quarterback Ben Stroh and sophomore running back Jordan Leier.
In the Pirates’ final game of the regular season against the Skyhawks, Kessel rushed for 111 yards and a score, Leier rushed for 97 yards and two scores and Wahl rushed for 96 yards.
“We’ve really been spreading it around this year. We do have some good speed and Cody is one of those kids that are very dangerous in the open field. We’ve been moving him around from quarterback to wing this season,” Biesterfeld said. “Cody suffered a groin injury against Napoleon, and Ben led us to a big win over South Border at quarterback the following week, so we’ve been able to move Cody around.
“Zach Six (sophomore running back) also runs the ball for us, and his average rushing the ball is extremely high for us without as many carries as the other guys. He plays more split end for us.”
Nicholson garnered all-state honors last year for Kidder County at linebacker, and is finally getting the spring back into his step after breaking his right leg back in June, according to the coach.
“He didn’t actually run until practice No. 5,” Biesterfeld said. “The last three weeks he’s finally got his speed back and he’s able to plant on the leg. (Nicholson) being healthy at the end of the year is a really nice bonus.”
But Biesterfeld said a key to advancing further into this year’s state playoffs with a win over the Eagles will simply come down to the basics.
“Mainly, offensively we’ll need to execute and win the turnover battle,” Biesterfeld said. “That’s usually important in playoff games like this, and we’re hoping to hang on to the football.”
North Border began the year losing its first four games to some tough competition in the form of Cavalier, North Star, Stephen-Argyle, Minn., and Thompson. Cavalier won the Region 2 Class A championship this season, while Thompson earned the Region 3 9-man championship and North Star advanced to the playoffs.
“They played some very, very tough teams to start out the year and obviously they’ve improved,” Biesterfeld said. “We’re really just taking it one game at a time right now. Our first goal was to get into the playoffs, and our second goal was to win the region championship.
“That didn’t turn out, so now we’re just looking to improve and keep our winning streak going.”
The Pirates have won their last three games, after falling to the eventual Region 1 champion Napoleon Imperials on Sept. 17. Kidder County has improved dramatically under Biesterfeld over the last three seasons, compiling an overall record of 17-9 since 2008 and two straight playoff berths.
The Pirates won a single game in 2007.
“The main thing would be that our kids got older. The seniors that graduated last year started as freshmen on that one-win season,” Biesterfeld said. “It was kind of a numbers thing and our younger players had to play. These guys have a lot of experience and know what it takes to play competitive football.
“It’s nice to have things turn around a bit.”
Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at (701) 952-8461 or by email at email@example.com