11-man thoughts: Three stories to watch between Devils Lake, Langdon Area/Edmore/Munich football teams

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – Do you smell that? 

Better yet, do you hear that? 

To some, it might be the minted aroma that comes with a fresh lawn after a good trim of the football gridiron. To others, it might be the sound of helmets clashing and football athletes chanting right before practice in anticipation of the looming 2022 football season. 

But to everyone, it is a sign that football is indeed back. 

The Devils Lake Firebirds and Langdon Area/Edmore/Munich Cardinals do not need to be told such a statement. Although both teams inhabit separate regions, not to mention classes (Devils Lake in 11A – East and L/E/M in 11B – Region 2), each team can relate to the fact that both are 11-man teams with similar storylines. 

So, what storylines should each team keep an eye on as practice begins on Aug. 4? Let’s look into it. 

Devils Lake vs. Bismarck St. Mary's 10/29/21

1. Regaining the (early-season) drive 

It seems pretty simple, right? That’s because it is. But this simple storyline starts on the practice field for the Firebirds and Cardinals. After all, both teams are looking to rekindle some early-season magic. After finishing the regular season with an 8-1 record, the Cardinals saw their three-year state title streak end with their closely contested 21-18 loss on Oct. 30 to Kindred, the eventual 2021 11B champions. The Firebirds, meanwhile, finished the 2021 campaign with a five-game losing streak and ended their season with a 37-13 loss on Oct. 29 to the 11A state-runner up in Bismarck St. Mary’s. 

Yes, we are talking about the postseason when practice (Allen Iverson is quivering) has only just started. But the point is that each team finished their respective season with a sour taste in the mouth. Now, it is about rekindling each team’s success through the early portion of the season. Except for this time, the x-factor is about keeping the foot on the pedal from start to finish. 

2. Personnel switcheroo? 

The Cardinals look to be in decent shape in terms of returning personnel. At least, on paper, anyway. Regarding departures, the Cardinals lost a top-three wide receiver/cornerback threat in Tucker Welsh to graduation. Welsh finished the 2021 campaign with 383 receiving yards and six touchdowns. However, the Cardinals lost three senior offensive linemen in Shaun Goeser, Jacob Pollestad and Zachary Rostvet. 

Devils Lake's Benjamin Heilman (center) departs the program (graduation). As such, the Firebirds will look for a new signal-caller during the 2022 campaign.

The Firebirds, meanwhile, took more of a hit. The Firebirds lost three members on the defensive and offensive line combined (Andrew Haman, Jay Klemetsrud and Bridger Wayman) and a quarterback and running back tandem in Benjamin Heilman and Hayden Hofstad, respectively. Heilman finished the 2021 campaign averaging 67.5 rushing yards per game (seventh among all Eastern Dakota Conference players), not to mention knocking in six rushing and 13 passing touchdowns, respectively. 

Depth up front will be a point of emphasis, as will the philosophy of playing players all over. The question is how frequent this could be, even for high school football standards. 

3. More emphasis on usual go-to weapons? 

Although the Firebirds and Cardinals lost weapons on the offensive end, each team is not offensively barren as they enter the 2022 season. The Cardinals return their top quarterback option in junior Rayce Worley (1,736 passing yards, 17 touchdowns), in addition to their top running back in senior Carter Tetrault (1,151 rushing yards, 13 touchdowns). Although the Firebirds will need to find a dual-threat quarterback to replace Heilman, they have a pair of weapons in running back Colton Schneider and Drew Hofstad, who tallied 320 rushing yards and 651 receiving yards, respectively. That should give any incoming an option or two in the play-action or draw-playing game. 

As practice begins, the question will be how these weapons are utilized and if they get leaned on even more. A new year means a new chance to try different schemes. So, what will be the emphasis? 

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.