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Lions ready to have some fun

It’s not very often a No. 4 seed reaches the state semifinals in football.

But when that team is non-other than Linton-HMB, under the guidance of 37-year coaching veteran Dan Imdieke (311 career wins), somehow it comes as little surprise.

The Lions travel to Milnor today to face the Milnor-North Sargent Bulldogs at 2 p.m., with a trip to the Fargodome for the Class A title game on the line.

It’s rather fitting that Region 1’s No. 4 team, the Lions, will square off against Region 1’s top team, the Bulldogs, after witnessing a season that was chock-full of talent in Region 1. Three of the four teams in last week’s state quarterfinals, Linton-HMB, Oakes and Milnor-North Sargent, all hail from Region 1.

“We knew our region was going to be a tough one this year,” Imdieke said. “It seemed like every time somebody got a few votes in the state rankings they’d get knocked off the next week.

“It really goes to show you we were beating each other up all year.”

The Lions got past Oakes 16-9 last Saturday, while the Bulldogs topped North Prairie 33-14. Linton-HMB got its playoff run started by knocking off Larimore, Region 2’s No. 1 team, 28-8 in the opening round back on Oct. 26.

“And I think if Carrington would have been healthy, we could have had a clean sweep in Region 1,” Imdieke said of the quarterfinals. The Cardinals were upended by North Prairie 22-7 in the first round.

“But you can’t take anything away from Larimore. They played a pretty darn good game that day,” Imdieke added. “But our kids are playing well right now. They are on a mission.”

The mission continues today against a team that defeated them 20-14 on their home field back on Sept. 27.

“(Milnor-North Sargent) beat us fair and square, but there were about four big plays that turned the table a little bit,” Imdieke said.

The Bulldogs not only recovered a squib kick, but they also used a fake punt to achieve a first down by a yard to keep a drive alive. All five touchdowns in the game were scored on the ground from short distances, with the longest TD run coming from Linton-HMB senior running back Mike Oien from 11 yards out.

“It just didn’t seem to go our way, but we feel if we can turn a few of those things our way, or even them out anyway, then maybe we can sneak out a win,” Imdieke said.

Another thing that didn’t help matters, the Lions fair caught a punt on their own 1-yard line.

“We can’t have those types of mistakes. Instead of going for a pick we need to knock those passes down, things like that,” Imdieke said. “In a big game like this, one or two mistakes will make the difference, and whoever doesn’t make them will be going to the big house to play next week.”

The Bulldogs’ senior quarterback Briton Bussman scored a pair of rushing touchdowns against the Lions, while senior running back Andrew Martinson ran in a third score on a 4-yard scamper. Those two players, along with senior tight end Wyatt Mund, are athletes the Lions will need to keep in check to have success.

“They are somewhat of a big-play team, with Mund and Martinson and the speed and stuff they have,” Imdieke said. “We’ll have to try to take away that big play, just like any big game.”

“We think our defense is playing great right now. We haven’t given up more than a touchdown in any game in quite a while, so we’ll have to hang on our defense a little bit.”

The Lions are 5-0 and haven’t allowed an opponent more than a single touchdown since falling to the Bulldogs in September. The most points they’ve allowed in that time were the nine they allowed to Oakes last week.

Imdieke said the Lions’ battle plan today will include trying to make the Bulldogs one dimensional on offense.

“They run the ball well, they throw the ball well. They’re a very balanced team,” Imdieke said. “We feel we can’t let them do both. In order to beat them we’ll have to take something away, and we want to take the run away and make them throw.

“But there’s dangers with that, too. They are awful dangerous throwing the ball.”

Both teams enter the game with identical 8-2 records. Over on the 9-man side of things, Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter hosts Cavalier at 2 p.m. to decide which gets to go to the Dakota Bowl.

The Dakota Bowl kicks off Nov. 15 at the Fargodome. The 9-man championship is slated to start at 9:10 a.m., with the Class A title game taking the field at approximately 12:05 p.m.

“Our defense will need to put some pressure on them, and we’ll see what happens. It should be exciting,” Imdieke said of today’s clash with the Bulldogs. “We’re going there the underdogs, and we like being the underdogs. We’ve got nothing to lose and we’ll try to be as loose as we possibly can for a semifinal football game.

“We talk about fun all the time and we’re going to do that (today).”

Sun sports writer Michael Savaloja can be reached at 701-952-8461 or by email at