Winter wonders shoot for title
WYNDMERE, N.D. -- Scott Strenge placed a 2-by-12 plank on the snow-covered practice field.
The Wyndmere-Lidgerwood football coach lined up two combatants helmet-to-helmet in a three-point stance over the plank, its purpose to force players to keep their feet wide for balance.
Strenge blew his whistle, pads cracked, and then chopping feet created a mulch of dirt, dead grass and snow.
"Come on guys, we have to get used to these conditions," Strenge barked into the cold, crisp air as a player slipped to the ground.
To Wyndmere-Lidgerwood senior center/defensive end Carson Klosterman, "these conditions" are ideal.
"I wish there was a foot of snow on the ground come Saturday morning," said Klosterman, who leads the team with 10½ sacks and 10 more tackles for a loss.
"I like the winter. The best practices we've had are when there is snow outside."
The Warriors are hoping to brave chilly practice conditions for another week.
Wyndmere-Lidgerwood (10-0) hosts New Rockford-Sheyenne (10-0) at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in the North Dakota 9-man state semifinals with a spot in the Dakota Bowl at stake.
"You want to play when it's snowing because you realize how far you've really gotten," added Warriors senior running back/defensive back R.J. Boprie, who leads the team with 773 rushing yards.
Klosterman and Boprie lead a defense that has allowed just 3.2 points per game this season, including seven shutouts.
New Rockford-Sheyenne should test that stingy defense, averaging 41.1 points per game. Quarterback Michael Cudworth, running backs Casey Weber and Alex Belquist and receiver Tyler Cook are all threats.
Belquist, whose brother Elliott plays at North Dakota State, has rushed for 825 yards and 11 touchdowns. He's added 731 yards receiving, including nine touchdowns.
The Rockets lowest scoring output this season came in last Saturday's 25-24 state quarterfinal victory against Maddock.
"New Rockford has a very explosive offense," said Warriors senior linebacker/quarterback Bobby Volesky, who has 85 tackles.
"They're all very good athletes. You have to cut their chances to a minimum."
The Warriors' defense is loaded with experience. Klosterman, Boprie and Volesky (the team's leading tackler with 85) are each three-year starters. Defensive end Brandon Miller, linebacker Carter Hinrichs and defensive back Brady Helmer also have started for at least two seasons.
Synergy has played a key role in the defensive success.
"It's believing in the system," said Boprie, who leads the team with six interceptions. "We don't play as individuals. We don't try to do our own thing."
A quick glance at the Wyndmere press box gives you a snapshot of the Warriors' football tradition.
The years 1987 and 1992 are painted in black on the side of the white building below the heading "championships," referring to the school's state championships.
This team wants to add another number.
"As a senior you remember everything," Klosterman said. "You don't want to think back and say 'I should've done this' or 'I should've done that.' You want to leave it all on the field. No one of this team is satisfied right now from the freshmen to the seniors to the coaches to the statisticians."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513