MOORHEAD-The Concordia Cobbers went to the mountains in Washington again to find another inside linebacker.
Cobbers junior Andrew Thompson played at Mount Si High School, located near Mount Si, which has an elevation of more than 4,000 feet at its highest point. Thompson was a high school football teammate of former Concordia linebacker Hank Van Liew, who played his final season with the Cobbers last fall.
"I had never heard of Concordia before Hank came here," said Thompson, who is from North Bend, Wash.
Thompson has developed into a starter for Concordia, playing the same position as Van Liew. He backed up Van Liew last season for the Cobbers, similar to high school.
"He was the first person that I learned to play linebacker from," Thompson said of Van Liew, who is now a junior varsity defensive assistant coach for the Cobbers.
Thompson is second on the team with 52 tackles heading into Concordia's game at 1 p.m. Saturday at Carleton in Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference play. The No. 19-ranked Cobbers (6-1, 4-1 MIAC) are one game out of first place in the conference with three games remaining in the regular season.
Thompson leads the Cobbers with 3.5 sacks in his first season as a starter. As a sophomore, he played special teams and also rotated in at linebacker. He had 33 tackles in 10 games last season.
"He's just a playmaker. He has great instincts," Cobbers head coach Terry Horan said. "It's his first shot in the limelight. He's been waiting for his opportunity. As the years have gone on here, he's gotten better every year."
While Van Liew was Thompson's connection to Concordia, his final decision was based on the football program and the school.
"Even though it was a long ways from home, it felt like home," Thompson said.
Thompson ranks ninth in the MIAC with 7.4 tackles per game right behind Cobbers senior safety Dallas Raftevold, who averages 7.6 per game. Concordia is limiting opponents to 13.7 points per game.
"We have a lot of experience, a lot of guys came back from last year," Thompson said of the defense. "Our team is built around everyone doing their job. Everyone is not trying to be the superhero out there. People are doing their job."
Dragons looking for consistency
Minnesota State Moorhead could be without three of its top offensive players this weekend.
Dragons senior wide receiver Damon Gibson and junior running back Austin Stone are doubtful, while senior quarterback Demetrius Carr is questionable for Saturday's home game against the University of Mary in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference football.
The Dragons (3-5, 3-5 NSIC) are looking to win back-to-back games for the first time this season, coming off a 49-7 road victory against Minnesota-Crookston last weekend.
Laqua said the team needs to be more consistent of offense for the Dragons to string wins together.
"We've had a lot of different injuries where we've had to fill in," Laqua said. "We haven't been consistent in the run game and short passing game. We've been inconsistent there with not only our blocking but our reads."
Laqua said he likes the way the defense and special teams have played for the most part this season. The Dragons are allowing 26.1 points per game.
"We've got to put all three phases together to win football games," Laqua said.
The Dragons and Marauders (1-7, 1-7) play for the Paddle trophy. MSUM has won the previous two games in the series and currently have the Paddle, which the teams have played for since 2006. Mary has an 8-3 record in Paddle games. The Dragons have won three of the past four meetings.
If Carr can't play Saturday, true freshman quarterback Jakup Sinani is expected to be under center. Sinani passed for 378 yards and three touchdowns in his first college start last weekend against Minnesota-Crookston.
Odds and ends
Laqua likes the way true freshman Darby Grengs has played this season. The 6-foot-1, 199-pound safety has 20 tackles. "I think he has elevated his play," Laqua said. ... Cobbers senior fullback Chad Johnson leads the MIAC with 135.3 rushing yards per game. Johnson has also scored a league-best 14 rushing touchdowns. Concordia leads the conference in rushing, averaging 281.4 yards per game.