Known more to splash defensively, Keith Levin channeled his inner Rob Gronkowski on Sept. 4 in Minot.
Jamestown High School's senior tight end was able to haul in a contested pass from quarterback Ty Monson and sail 53 yards to score his first career touchdown in the Jays' 19-9 victory over the Magicians. The two-way starter led JHS with 12 tackles for loss as a junior defensive end in 2019, but Levin's two catches for 101 yards in Minot was the shot in the arm the Blue Jays were looking for with a pair of key senior receivers out of action for the first two games of 2020.
Jamestown is off to a 2-0 start for the first time since 2014 and its victory over the Magicians is believed to be the team's first in the city of Minot since topping the Magi 17-7 on the road in October of 1959. The Blue Jays open the final season of play at Ernie Gates Field this Friday hosting Bismarck Legacy (1-1) at 7 p.m.
"I kind of just said a small prayer and put my hand up (and) tipped it up ... caught it with my other hand and ran home," said the 6-foot-5 Levin of beating a Minot defender for the football in the fourth quarter. "The team's just really meshing together. Our line is really holding themselves and showing what they can do and the rest of our receivers are catching balls and getting yards."
Monson to this point has completed 24 of 34 pass attempts to six different receivers for 406 yards and will have seniors Jacob Hilgemann and Carson Lamp to throw to on the outside beginning against the Sabers. Hilgemann and Lamp combined for 1,902 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns last fall and will be seeing their first action Friday along with junior linebacker Evan Prescott, who racked up 43 tackles as a sophomore.
Jamestown has produced approximately 200 more yards offensively than its adversaries -- also beating Dickinson 28-21 in Week 1 -- and is plus three in turnover margin with five interceptions.
Jamestown's Preston Kroeber, Cater Burchill and Austin Kessler all came away with interceptions in Minot.
"We've done a nice job of taking care of some miscues and we've taken care of the ball ourselves," said JHS coach Bill Nelson. "It's taking advantage of opportunities when you get them and making the best of them."
Bismarck Legacy shut out the Blue Jays 42-0 last season and hung tough with top-ranked Bismarck Century on Aug. 29, falling 37-29. The Sabers trounced Williston 54-13 on Sept. 4.
"This week is probably the most formations we've seen defensively," Nelson said. "We're just going to have to know and recognize some different things. All the good teams have new stuff in their back pocket every week."
Legacy senior quarterback Clay Feland threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns in Week 1's eight-point loss to the Patriots. He also rushed for a team-high 113 yards on 23 carries.
Feland's main target on opening night was Nick Kupfer, as he found the 6-3 senior receiver six times for 144 yards and a score. Matt Jensen also hauled in three balls for 56 yards and a TD, while seniors Lyric Hoffman (RB/LB) and Keagen Woodbury (WR/DB) are returning all-conference selections.
"(Feland's) played really well the first couple of games," Nelson said. "He's about 6-2, 200 pounds and he's generated a lot of offense. They've also got a handful of nice receivers.
"They pose challenges but we feel we match up with them."
JHS senior kicker Reece Kleinknecht will be returning to action this week, but the Blue Jays have lost junior wide receiver/cornerback Adam Kallenbach to a season-ending injury. Jamestown will be without senior Jacoby Nold (QB/DB) and junior Devin Beach (TE/LB) for at least another week as both are still recovering from injuries.
But at 2-0, Nelson said it's been easy to pinpoint what has excited him the most.
"They're excited for each other," Nelson said of his players. "There hasn't been a lot of 'It's all about me.' It's all about the family and taking care of each other."
Levin said remaining focused on defense will be key for the Blue Jays this week. The Sabers produced 28 points with nearly 260 yards of offense in the opening quarter against the Jays last fall.
"Our defense has got to really communicate and make sure we're getting to the right lineup spots," Levin said. "Offensively, we gotta take advantage of the spots we can and make sure we hold our own."
Jamestown 19, Minot 9
JHS 7 6 0 6 -- 19
MHS 0 6 3 0 -- 9
J: Ty Monson 1 run (Adam Kallenbach kick), 0:14.
J: Monson 1 run (kick failed), 3:33.
M: Hunter Ruzicka 87 kick return (kick failed), 3:19.
M: Peyton Bartsch 28 field goal, 3:55.
J: Keith Levin 53 pass from Monson (pass failed), 9:19.
Total offense: JHS, 341 (85 rushing). MHS, 183 (49 rushing).
Passing: Monson 12-20-0 256.
Rushing: Austin Kessler 13-36, Jakob Schempp 4-31, Monson 19-20, Kallenbach 1-(-2).
Receiving: Levin 2-101, Preston Kroeber 5-85, Kallenbach 3-31, Kessler 2-23, Schempp 2-16.
Tackles (solo): Colton Mewes 10 (8), Joel Bowman 8 (6), Kallenbach 4 (3), Paris Ndikum 4 (2), Aden Braun 4 (2), Jackson Walters 4 (2), Levin 2 (1), Kroeber 1 (1), Carter Burchill 2 (1), Matt Anderson 3 (1), Ian Wies 3 (1), Preston Gall 1 (1), Zechary Skari 1 (1), Kessler 1, Brode Hillstrom 1.
Sacks: Anderson 1.
Interceptions: Kroeber 1, Burchill 1, Kessler 1.
Records: Jamestown 2-0. Minot 0-2.
JHS Season Leaders
Passing: Monson 24-34-1 406.
Rushing: Kessler 32-181, Monson 30-71, Schempp 10-59.
Receiving: Kroeber 9-145, Levin 2-101, Kallenbach 6-88, Hillstrom 1-31, Kessler 2-23, Schempp 4-18.
Tackles (solo): Braun 13 (7), Anderson 12 (7), Mewes 12 (9), Bowman 10 (8), Kallenbach 10 (9).
Sacks: Anderson 1.
TFL: Anderson 4, Levin 2, Mewes 2.
Interceptions: Bowman 1-0, Kessler 1-18, Ndikum 1-2, Burchill 1-0, Kroeber 1-0.