Posted 8/16/16 (Tue)
By Jody Michael
With a roster of 26 that includes a huge group of returners and a couple of ambitious additions, this year’s Divide County football team enters its first game Friday with hopes of improving upon last season’s 5-4 record.
When asked what the Maroons’ strength is, senior Joe Nelson said the team should be fast. A deep class of junior running backs, four of whom averaged more than five yards per carry last year, all return.
““We’ve got a lot of speed,” Nelson said, “but I think we’re going to be balanced with running and passing.”
That’s because DC offensive coach Bob Brown expects to call more passing plays this year with new quarterback Dejuan Jenkins -- though he is a capable runner as well.
“He does have the ability to throw the ball, but he’s a good runner,” Brown said of the sophomore. “He’s smooth and agile -- a dual-threat -- and we have the other pieces in the backfield that played there last year.”
The only other big change to DC’s starting lineup is due to the graduation of three linemen.
“We lost a lot of people on the line,” senior end Riley Lund said, “but a lot of the younger people are coming up and really proving that they are ready to play.”
So too is fellow senior Seth Haugland, who joined the team this year and will help replace some of the size up front.
“It’s my senior year, and I wanted to play football with all of these guys and just go all out,” Haugland said.
Defensive coach Nate Nelson said he expects to be stronger on that side of the ball this year as well.
“The kids made a lot of gains in the weight room, so we’re seeing a little more of a physical presence there,” he said. “I think we have a scheme that fits what our needs are and also fits the talent we have.”
This year’s season opener is a second consecutive meeting with perennial Dakota Bowl contender Cavalier, this time at home Friday at 7 p.m. Last year, Cavalier beat DC 58-6.
“We couldn’t have been any worse against them last year, so we’ve got to be more competitive,” Nate Nelson said. “But we’re ahead of where we were last year at this point.”
Though DC should be more competitive with a more veteran group, the same can be said of last year’s two best teams in the region, Mohall-Lansford-Sherwood and Kenmare-Burke County.
“You have to put Mohall and Kenmare back at No. 1 and 2,” Brown said. “We were a weak region last year. We’re better, but everybody else is better, too. The rest of us are kind of battling it out.”