Three tips: what Four Winds football must do to beat St. John

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – A three-game winning streak to conclude the regular season was precisely what the Four Winds Indians (3-5) needed to clinch their second playoff appearance in program history and their first since the 2018-19 season. 

Should the Indians wish to keep the momentum going in the hopes of making a deep playoff run, they will need to emphasize several critical areas when they take to the road to face the St. John Woodchucks (5-3) on Oct. 16. While their 42-8 loss against the Woodchucks on Aug. 27 was anything but successful, the Indians will look to capture some postseason magic to change their fortunes this time around. So, what will give the Indians the edge and x-factor to a potential upset? Time to check it out. 

1. Do not run the ball effectively – run the ball efficiently

While this might seem straightforward, it is especially the case for the Indians. A quick glimpse at the numbers would state as such. Through their first five games of the season, the Indians averaged 79 rushing yards per game. Against St. John, in particular, the Indians were unable to crack the 100-yard mark on the ground (93). However, over the team’s last three games (and three wins), the Indians have averaged 252 rushing yards per game. Dating back to their 28-20 loss against the New Rockford-Sheyenne Rockets, the Indians have cracked more than 100 rushing yards in four straight contests. 

The running back duo of Kelson Keja and Adam Charboneau, combined with the dual-threat prowess of quarterback Jayden Yankton, have shown the capability to prolong drives and keep control of the clock. They will need to do so again should they slow down the Woodchucks on Saturday. 

2. Maintain a presence in the pocket, even if the passing game is not an emphasis

The Indians have shown the tendency to run the ball, and that is all fine and dandy. Now, they will need to establish the play-action, too. Enter Yankton. During Four Winds’ three-game winning streak, Yankton has combined to throw for 517 passing yards with a 9:1 touchdown/interception ratio. Is that good? Definitely – after all, the senior quarterback tallied only 159 passing yards through the air and lobbed three interceptions on Aug. 27 against the same St. John team they will face once more this weekend. 

The Indians might not prioritize the passing game, but they will need to keep the defense honest enough to make it a worthwhile game on the offensive side. Should Yankton and Co. stay comfortable enough and make the easy throws, the offense will become that much more lethal. 

3. Force a turnover or three  

Given the roster makeup of both the Indians and Woodchucks, clock possession will be essential, especially when each team attempts to maintain control of the ball. Should the Indians wish to keep possession of the ball, they will need to stir up enough creativity on the defensive side with Yankton, Charboneau and Deng Deng, among others, to keep the pressure on the opposing offense. In Deng’s case, the sophomore wide receiver/defensive back has tallied an interception in each of his last three games. 

Although the game might lean more toward the rushing side of the pendulum, the Indians will need to close off the passing lanes should the Woodchucks decide to go to it. Stay frosty. 

Final thoughts: 

Four Winds will have their hands full as the Woodchucks have scored 25 points or more in four of their last five games. The Indians, however, have been able to fine-tune their offense for the better, too – the Indians have averaged 54 points per game during their three-game winning streak to close out the regular season.

Even though both teams played each other in August, a new month and a different atmosphere bring a different feel. Although St. John will look to establish their presence early, the Indians will respond with enough confidence to pull out their first playoff win in program history. 

Prediction: 38-32 Four Winds