Austin Kessler's long run of 52-yards last Friday night in Dickinson was a textbook example of gym shape versus early-season game shape.
Oxygen ran a little thin for Jamestown's bruising senior running back while carrying the ball from the JHS 1-yard line out past the 50 in the second quarter against the Midgets. Jamestown rolled to a 28-21 victory in the season-opening contest.
"I'm screaming, 'Get wheels! Get wheels!'" chuckled JHS coach Bill Nelson prior to Monday's team walkthrough at Ernie Gates Field. "We just gotta -- and he knows this -- keep working and keep getting in better shape. He got a little tired there that second half."
Kessler rumbled for 145 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries, according to stats kept by The Dickinson Press, as Jamestown controlled the line of scrimmage and flipped the script a tad on last year's open aerial offense. The Blue Jays combined to rush for 225 yards against the Midgets after accumulating just 615 yards rushing in all of 2019.
That type of production starts with the return of a veteran offensive line that includes seniors Matt Anderson, Blaize Elton, Cooper Kosel and Damien Krebs, but the addition of the 205-pound Kessler to complement the shiftier, 135-pound Jakob Schempp out of the backfield has appeared to provide the Blue Jays with more traditional options through four quarters.
"We each had a job and we each made sure that we did our jobs so that we could be successful," said Kessler, who qualified for last year's Class A state wrestling tournament at 195 pounds for JHS and Blue Jays wrestling coach Larry Eslick. "We talked about running the ball more and all that ... but I think it was more of just try a few plays and see what happens. If it works, just keep doing it."
It worked, and Nelson is hoping Kessler and the Blue Jays' front five, which also includes junior center Thomas Allmer, can keep applying pressure to opponents all season. Kessler began his Blue Jay football career in the seventh grade, but a brief move last fall had him playing as a junior in South Dakota.
"It was our first game," Kessler said. "Everything's just going to continue to get better."
"We didn't have a lot of runs that went for zero or negative yardage," Nelson added. "We were able to push the line of scrimmage and that's definitely a very encouraging, exciting thing to see."
Kessler and the offensive line iced the game in the fourth quarter with a three-yard plunge on a fourth-and-2 in the final minute. But Jamestown proved its mettle on the opening drive, marching 65 yards and into the end zone to take the early lead behind a 15-yard Ty Monson scoring run on a fourth-and-14 from the Dickinson 15.
Monson earned the start at quarterback, following in the footsteps of his father, Paul, and older brother, Ross, who also both quarterbacked the Blue Jays. Monson finished with 55 yards rushing on 12 carries and completed 10 of 15 pass attempts for 155 yards and a pair of touchdowns. He threw a lone interception while trying to connect with junior receiver Adam Kallenbach in the closing seconds of the first half with the Jays leading 14-7.
"If he throws that six inches farther that's a touchdown," Nelson said. "That was a great play on that DB's part. Adam had a step-and a-half on him and that kid just made a great play."
A bad snap and a muffed punt gave the Jays three turnovers on the day. But one year after producing four interceptions total on defense, both junior corner Joel Bowman and sophomore linebacker Paris Ndikum came away with first-half interceptions of Dickinson quarterback Landon Aman.
Kallenbach and junior receiver Preston Kroeber both hauled in TD passes for the Blue Jays, as Jamestown will be without senior starting wide receivers/corners Jacob Hilgemann and Carson Lamp for one more game.
"Controlling the line of scrimmage is such a huge key on both sides of the ball and we did a nice job defensively, too, but there's a lot of areas we can improve," Nelson said. "All and all -- how things went -- it was a good night for the Blue Jays."
On to Minot
Minot High, the Jays' opponent this Friday, Sept. 4, has a new head football coach for the first time in 15 seasons with Chauncy Hendershot taking over for Barry Holmen.
Holmen resigned in February with a record of 112-50 and Hendershot takes over after spending the past eight seasons as an assistant. The new head coach was a senior quarterback at Minot Bishop Ryan High School in 2003 before playing as a wide receiver at Minot State University.
Friday's game is scheduled to begin at 8 p.m at Minot's Duane Carlson Stadium.
"They're doing a lot of shifts ... a lot of movement around up front trying to outflank you, and that's what good teams do," Nelson said.
Minot (0-1) was dealt a 33-14 setback last Friday at Mandan. Minot's two scores came through the air with junior quarterback Trevor Emke finding senior receiver Teagan Kinchen and junior running back Hunter Ruzicka for touchdown passes of 15 and 36 yards, respectively.
Minot senior running back Chase Burke collected 73 yards on 17 carries. Burke posted 545 yards rushing and five touchdowns last season behind graduated all-state running back Payton Philion.
The Magi defense allowed well over 200 yards on the ground to Mandan, including 131 markers to the Braves' Garret Schaefbauer. The Blue Jays are in search of their first win against Minot since 2002, narrowly falling 21-13 to the Magicians last fall at Ernie Gates.
"It doesn't matter if it's up there, it doesn't matter if it's here. We've always battled Minot really hard," Nelson said. "I think if we can control the line of scrimmage and take care of the ball we'll have a chance in the end."
Kessler believes the Jays can get the monkey off their back Friday. Both Jamestown and Minot were receiving votes in the first Class AAA football media poll released Monday.
"If we just keep sticking to the jobs that we each have," Kessler said, "I think we'll be successful."
NDAPSSA H.S. Football Polls
(First-place votes in parenthesis)
Team Rec. Pts
1. Bismarck Century (12) 1-0 72
2T. Bismarck (2) 1-0 42
2T. W.F. Sheyenne (1) 1-0 42
4. Fargo Shanley (1) 1-0 30
5. Fargo Davies 1-0 24
Receiving votes: Mandan 1-0, West Fargo 1-0, Bismarck Legacy 0-1, Jamestown 1-0, Minot 0-1.