Spitza: Rivalries old and new highlight this weekend's prep football slate
Moorhead hosts Alexandria in a section semifinal rematch, Fargo North and Fargo South renew their rivalry, Oakes visits Kindred in a battle of unbeatens
FARGO — It's officially autumn which means winter will probably be here sometime next week.
Sorry to be a Debbie Downer — but as the air temperature begins to cool across the region, things are just beginning to heat up under the Friday night lights.
This weekend will renew rivalries old and new. On the east side of the Red River, we have a Class 5A, Section 8 semifinal rematch that ended in agonizing defeat for one metro team last season, while on the west side, two of the Fargo area's oldest high schools clash in an 11A Eastern Dakota Conference battle.
Here's a look at games to keep an eye on Friday night:
Alexandria (1-2) at Moorhead (2-1), 7 p.m.
Do you remember this one, Spuds fans? Do you want to remember it? Probably not. But, it needs to be brought up anyway, because it makes this contest all the more interesting.
The Cardinals dethroned the back-to-back section champions in the section semifinals last season, picking up a 42-39 win at Moorhead on a late hook-and-ladder play that left a stadium stunned.
"There's nothing you can say to make these kids feel better in these situations," Spuds head coach Kevin Feeney said after the game.
Coaches will often say it's a 'one game at a time' mentality — but it's probably safe to assume the Spuds have had this one circled for a while.
“I think there’s a lot of kids out here that felt like we didn’t meet our expectations last year and we want to make sure that doesn't happen again," Feeney said before this season.
Moorhead has two wins on the year so far — one against St. Cloud Tech and another against Bemidji — while its one loss was to Brainerd in its home opener on Sept. 9.
Alexandria is the exact opposite at 1-2 — falling to Hutchinson and Sauk Rapids-Rice while picking up a road win at Bemidji.
For what it's worth, the Spuds topped the Cardinals in the regular season contest 37-31 last year. Does anybody remember that one after the playoff game? Probably not. But after this Friday, Moorhead is hoping to make people forget about the most recent installment in this series as well.
Can we consider this a rivalry? Maybe not forever — but the recent implications definitely make it one for now and makes this game all the more intriguing.
No. 2 Fargo North (4-0) at No. 4 Fargo South (3-1), 7 p.m.
Here's an old-school rivalry that should be extra fun this year. The unbeaten Spartans head to the south end of town to square off with the one-loss Bruins in an 11A EDC tilt.
South won nine straight games in this series from 2012-2020 before the Spartans ended their drought last year with a 28-3 win over the Bruins.
North is hoping to make it two in a row this year as the Spartans have the second-best offense in the EDC's 'A' division with 1,654 yards and 24 touchdowns this season. Nine of those TDs belong to junior Peder Haugo, who is statistically the best running back in the EDC with 469 yards and an average of 8.7 yards per carry.
Junior receiver Jeremiah Sem also leads the EDC with 297 yards and three touchdowns. He can thank junior quarterback Ethan Welk, who is second-best in the EDC in both passing and total offense. Welk has tossed for 598 yards and nine TDs through four games and also has 179 yards rushing.
Should the Bruins look to slow that offensive attack down, they'll look to senior linebacker Zach Thomasson who ranks third in the EDC in total tackles with 27 and two sacks. Junior corner Abu Trawally and junior linebacker Damarion Semanko also have two interceptions to their credit while senior corner Will Lacher has recorded seven pass breakups this year.
South also has offensive weapons in George Hansegard, Kolby Nissen and Semanko. Hansegard, a junior, ranks third among EDC receivers with eight catches for 212 yards and two touchdowns. Nissen has impressed under center for the Bruins in his junior season as well, tossing for 382 yards and three touchdowns while adding 68 yards on the ground. Semanko has 288 yards and two touchdowns in the ground game this season.
On the flip side, North has its defensive counters as well. Junior linebacker Gus Maughan and senior linebacker Ethan Latterner have combined for 36.5 total tackles this season while junior defensive backs Carson Hannestad and Peyton Trogstad have each nabbed two interceptions.
Simply put, there's a lot of talent on both sides of the ball for both teams here. Consider making your way out to this one if you're a neutral fan looking for a great game.
No. 5 Oakes (5-0) at No. 1 Kindred (5-0), 7 p.m.
One more game worth noting this week as the Tornadoes visit the Vikings in a battle of Region 1 unbeatens.
If anyone is going to dethrone the defending 11B state champions, Oakes may have the team to do it.
To achieve such a feat, however, the Tornadoes will need to stop the high-powered Kindred offense while figuring out how to beat its defense as well. The Vikings have outscored their opponents 188-42 this season, pitching two shutouts against Lisbon and Hillsboro/Central Valley — which aren't slouches by any means.
On the flip side, Oakes has impressed as well, outscoring its opponents 200-66.
Prediction time. This could either be an offensive slugfest or a defensive clinic. Either way, I'll take Kindred winning this one to stay atop Region 1.