Posted 8/18/15 (Tue)
By Jody Michael
As football practice started in Divide County last week, one thing was noticeably different from the previous year.
“Not as many players,” responded senior Trent Bossingham, the new starting quarterback.
In fact, the 2015 Maroons must replace 11 seniors from last year’s 6-4 team and will actually feature more sophomores than upperclassmen.
“It’s like having a whole new piece of clay to try to mold,” defensive coach Nate Nelson said.
“It’s really been fun, though,” offensive coach Bob Brown added. “We’ve got all new starters, so we’re totally inexperienced, but they’ve really worked hard. They’re very coachable and very receptive. They’re catching on quick.”
“We’ve progressed a lot just in practice,” senior lineman Keaton Oien said after the third day of conditioning. “We’ve improved a lot.”
The Maroons’ schedule is also a bit different this year, and might cause some head-scratching due to a season-opening trek across the state to Cavalier.
A realignment of regions this year created a first-week open date for teams to schedule an opponent from outside their region, which has always been a challenge for Divide County.
“Nobody wants to go to the corners of the state,” Brown said.
Cavalier’s coaches gave Divide County a call after finding themselves in the same dilemma, and the Maroons and Tornadoes agreed to play this year in Cavalier and next year in Crosby.
But even more noteworthy than the 4.5-hour drive is the opponent itself.
The Tornadoes have won the past two state titles and hold a 24-game winning streak, during which they’ve scored an average of 57 points per game while allowing just four.
Cavalier graduated 11 seniors just like Divide County but will still be a challenge, Brown said.
“I don’t know that there’s ever a good time to play Cavalier,” he said, “but you learn a lot about toughness that way. We’ll know a lot about our team in just the first quarter.”
On the bright side, Cavalier is the only long-distance opponent on the schedule this year. With Tioga and Ray splitting their co-op team and returning to the 9-man class, Divide County’s football region is finally back to resembling the volleyball and basketball regions, stretching only as far east as Parshall rather than all the way to St. John.
Nelson said he always notices more excitement among players and fans alike for games against more nearby, natural rivals.
“They’re playing the same kids they play in basketball, and the same kids they see at track meets,” he said. “It’s going to be fun.”
Another result of the realignment is that all three teams that finished ahead of Divide County in 2014 are coincidentally no longer in the region.
But with the Maroons now fielding a younger squad, the region could have a down year across the board, with all four playoff spots up for grabs.
“It might be the most competitive region,” Nelson said. “It’ll be a dogfight.”
“Winning the region is the goal,” senior lineman Tyler Harward added. “Every game, we want to win.”
Nipping at Divide County’s heels are the Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood Mavericks, who finished just behind the Maroons last year at 5-4 and graduated only four seniors.
“Mohall returns the most, so they’re probably the frontrunner,” Brown said.
That could lead to a meaningful regular-season finale between the Maroons and Mavericks just like last year, when DC won 34-8 with a playoff spot on the line.
The Maroons’ home opener is Aug. 28 against Trenton-Trinity Christian, another addition to the region.