Three 9B – Region 4 storylines to watch as football practice begins

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – The 9B – Region 4 quintet in Benson County, Four Winds, New Rockford-Sheyenne, North Prairie and North Star will have their collective hands full during the 2022 high school football season. 

Four Winds vs. Benson County Football 10/7/21

As the pads clash and the whistling screeches under the North Dakota sun from Aug. 4 onward, each team will look to make each practice day count in anticipation of the looming football season. 

Here are three Region 4 storylines to watch as practice gets underway: 

1. Finding that QB1 for Four Winds 

The Indians had a rollercoaster season of sorts during their 2021 campaign. 

A five-game losing streak to open 2021 might not have been the smoothest way to start a season, but sometimes, it isn’t about how you start but how you finish. Although they failed to secure their first-ever playoff victory with their 20-6 loss to St. John on Oct. 16, the Indians finished the 2021 season as winners of three of their last four. 

Fast forward to 2022, and the Indians bring back many a familiar face. Adam Charboneau, Kelson Keja, Deng Deng and Dalen Leftbear, among others, return to the fold. 

Quarterback/Cornerback Jayden Yankton (white, center) graduated from the Four Winds High School ranks.

One big piece, however, does not, and that comes in the form of quarterback Jayden Yankton (graduation). Yankton finished 2021 with 13 passing and team-high six rushing touchdowns, not to mention 1,434 and 205 rushing yards, respectively.  

Any new Four Winds player that takes up the play-calling duties doesn’t have to sling it every other snap. But keeping poise and moving the chains through the run game will be critical. Should the Indians find such a player, their late-season noise from a year ago will translate to this year in spades. 

2. Benson County: Working toward and potentially netting that elusive first win 

Benson County will look for more consistency across all areas during the 2022 season.

Whereas Four Winds had a bumpy start, but a strong finish, Benson County’s 2021 journey was one with severe turbulence from beginning to end. An 0-8 record was only the tip of the iceberg. The Wildcats’ defense allowed 30 points or more in all eight contests and scored 20 points or more only once. 

Such a journey excludes Bradley Kitzmann stepping down due to health concerns and Justin Maddock taking over in the interim midway through the season.

2022, meanwhile, will look to bring more consistency on all fronts. Maddock returns to the fold, this time as the head coach for the duration. 2022 might still bring growing pains, but a new season brings a fresh opportunity to play without the pressure and noise that 2021 might have brought ten-fold for the Wildcats. That alone is a win in itself. 

3. North Star: running it back, and then some? 

Year in and year out, teams lose talent. Such is the case for any sports team. High school football is no exception. The Daniel Grande-led Bearcats, however, might have some liberties other programs might not. After all, the Bearcats lose only three players to graduation (Kaleb DeMontigny, Austin Oakland and Benjamin Reemtsma). 

With those losses, North Star will have some work to situate on the offensive and defensive line. Reemtsma, in particular, was the only for-sure center on the roster. But in terms of offensive firepower, the Bearcats will have all of their weapons back at their disposal. Such an arsenal includes quarterback Dane Hagler, running back Garrett Westlind, wide receiver Brett Dilley and their two-tandem tight end duo in Parker and Karsen Simon. 

The Bearcats might have amassed a 2-6 overall record during their 2021 season. But a young team in the past is a more experienced team in the present. That will show itself from the first day of practice to the last. 

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.