The Devils Lake football team had its Homecoming game spoiled last week by Fargo Davies. This week, the Firebirds (0-4) are hoping to play spoiler at Grand Forks Central’s (1-3) Homecoming at 7 p.m. Friday.
The Knights got a big 29-0 win last week at Fargo North after going 0-9 last season. Pair that with Homecoming week, and the Firebirds will be facing a confident group.
“We want the crowd out of it right away,” DL head coach Jake Wateland said. “They’ll be fired up coming off a win. We want to get confidence right away and get going. That will be key this week.”
Even with no wins yet this season, the Firebirds aren’t short on confidence. In fact, they’re practicing with more of an edge this week.
“We’re kind of fired up right now,” Wateland said. “We’re tired of losing. Guys are practicing with a chip on their shoulder this week.”
DL was down 27-21 last week against Davies at halftime before giving up 14 unanswered points.
The previous week, DL scored 19 points in the fourth quarter to narrowly lose 41-33 to West Fargo Sheyenne.
The focus again this week in practice is putting together a four-quarter ball game.
“I had comments from the guys that coach Jacobson has done a great job of getting our guys in shape,” Wateland said. “Looking at that game, they may have worn us down a bit in the second half. But I think more importantly, it was us not executing. The guys are in shape and are working hard. It’s just staying mentally focused in that second half.”
The other focus is getting the run game going. Against Davies, the Firebirds threw for 270 yards, but rushed for just 41. The Jake Mertens to Zach Dahlen connection continues to lead the Eastern Dakota Conference by a wide margin.
The two connected for 129 yards and three touchdowns against Davies.
“It’s something we’ll focus on again this week is keep getting the running game going,” Wateland said. “We talked about how we can’t put our offense in a situation where we're down two scores where we have to throw. That’s up to the defense for us to commit and stay with our run game.”
The Knights have a solid quarterback-receiver duo as well in Zack Murphy and Aaron Knutson.
“Offensively, their passing game to me is the No. 1 key,” Wateland said. “Their quarterback is an accurate thrower. They have a tall 6-foot-5 receiver they like to throw it to. Not allowing any big plays is what we talked about this week.”
The Firebirds should like the matchup, though. The team is better suited to defend a passing team than a running team, Wateland said.
Last week, DL allowed 460 yards on the ground.
“Central is similar to us as far as their overall team makeup goes,” Wateland said. “They’re not overly big, but have skilled guys. When we match up with teams similar to our size, as far as numbers go and physically, it’s more of a comparable game and that’s been the key the last couple years.”