By Ray Maloney
Journal Sports Editor
New Rockford-Sheyenne and Lakota-Adams-Edmore are beginning to develop quite the little rivalry in nine-man football.
A year ago the Rockets and Raiders engaged in a shootout before the Rockets emerged with a 40-34 win at home. Earlier this season the Rockets broke away from a 24-24 deadlock to win 38-32 in double overtime on the Raider’s home turf.
The two teams will meet again on Saturday with plenty on the line as the No. 2-ranked Rockets play host to the Raiders in a state nine-man playoff game. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m.
“We expect a lot of the same,” NR-S coach Elliott Belquist said of the familiar foe. “(L-A-E) comes at you with all they have. They do what they do and we’ll just have to adjust.”
Joe Harder, Belquist’s counterpart, said his team will have to take care of the football if the Raiders are to move on in the playoffs.
“Offensively, we will have to control the ball,” said Harder, whose team takes a 7-2 record into Saturday’s tilt. “We had success doing that for three quarters in our earlier meeting ... we just have to make it four quarters this time around.”
Harder and the Raiders will enter the game without the services of standout Dylan Eichelberger, who will miss the contest after suffering a broken arm.
Eichelberger had rushed for 183 yards on 38 carries this season, but was a big part of the Raider defense that allowed 26.5 points per game during the regular season before yielding 44 as the L-A-E dethroned defending state champion Napoleon-Gacklet-Streeter last week in the first round of the playoffs.
Eichelberger, a linebacker, had tallied a team-leading 74 total tackles, including 29 solo stops, to lead the Raiders.
“We’ll have to make some adjustments,” Harder said. “It’s not something new. We’ve moved people around for seven weeks ... now we just need some kids to step up and fill the void.”
The Raiders have to two players who combined for more than 2,000 rushing yards this season and are expected to rely on the ground attack against the Rockets.
Jaron Moor leads the Raiders with 1,418 yards on 125 carries this season. He is averaging just over 11 yards per rush and has scored 26 touchdowns on the year.
Chris Miller has added 879 on 121 carries (7.3 ypc) and has scored 12 times on the year.
New Rockford-Sheyenne also has two players who have tallied a combined 2,000 yards.
Quarterback Ethan Haley is a dual threat as he has a team-leading 1,255 rushing yards and has averaged 12.2 yards each time he has carried the ball and has scored 15 touchdowns for the Rockets.
He has also completed two out of every three passes put in the air and has thrown for 541 yards and 11 touchdowns. He has completed 31 of his 46 passes.
Page 2 of 2 - Alex Perleberg has added 976 yards on 119 carries (8.2 ypc) this season and has a team-leading 18 touchdowns.
“We have a number of players who are capable of breaking a big play at any time,” said Belquist, whose team is 9-0 heading into Saturday’s home affair against the Raiders.
What Belquist, a former standout at North Dakota State University during his own brilliant playing career, also has is an experienced squad that continues to impress the NR-S mentor.
“We have a nice group of seniors whose leadership extends to the practice field,” Belquist said. “They work hard in practice and in games and keep the younger players grounded and focused.
“The seniors understand this is their last go-round,” the NR-S coach added.