Despite second straight loss, Devils Lake football is seeing improvements to younger core
Week one and week two have felt almost identical for Devils Lake football. They welcomed a top ranked state opponent to Joe Roller Field, struggled to contain the opposition on offense and would walk away without scoring a point.
Last week it was a 38-0 loss to No. 1 Bismarck St. Mary’s Central. Friday, Devils Lake (0-2, 0-0 AA East) was bested by No. 2 Beulah (2-0, 1-0 AA West) 35-0. While falling on the wrong side of a shutout, again, for the Firebirds is not ideal, there were a handful of silver linings from week one to week two.
“We’re gaining more experience and improvement from one week to another,” Firebirds head coach Todd Lambrecht said. “We’re putting some guys in some situations where they realize they need to start picking up their game to help out the team.”
The experience is one the Firebirds are trying to emphasize as much as they can in this early season. With only five seniors on the roster this season, facing top talent in the Saints and Miners in back to back weeks has thrown less experienced players into a hands on position to start learning.
“We really need our backups to step up because our backups are our younger players,” senior lineman James Tice said. “They need to learn what to bring to these varsity games. As older guys, we need to be leaders and bring up our intensity. They’re watching everything we do, so we need to set a good example.”
Despite not finding the end zone, the Firebirds did have a pair of chances in the second half to score, but were unable to connect. At the end of the third quarter, after recovering a fumble, junior quarterback Jackson Skaar would pass from the 10-yard line before being intercepted in the end zone by Beulah’s Trapper Skalsky, who would take the ball down to the Firebirds 30.
In Devils Lake’s final offensive drive of the game on fourth down, Skaar would find a receiver in the end zone, but the pass would be dropped. Tice said that the Firebirds offensive drought is linked to the confidence on the team and not being nervous to make a play.
The Firebirds looked more to their rushing game on offense than passing as Skarr would only attempt 12 passes on the night and complete five. On the night, they only passed for 41 yards where the rush went for 81.
Sophomore Colton Schneider lead the rush for Devils Lake as he would pick up 84 yards on 20 attempts. He was followed by sophomore Reese Brown, who rushed for 2-yards on two attempts.
“We just need to get out of our own heads and quit being nervous,” Tice said. “We just need to fix those little mistakes in practice, tighten up the focus and get it going.”
The team saw a better performance on defense as they were able to limit the Miners passing game but not rushing game. Miner’s running back Dawson Zuroff was untouchable for Beulah as he would score three of five Miner touchdowns. Zuroff would finish the night with 70 rushing yards on only nine attempts.
Amari Gilmore had the long haul for the Miners as he would run 50 yards at the end of the second quarter for six.
While the Firebirds offense struggled to get going, the team did see improvement on the defensive end in overall toughness according to Lambrecht. Devils Lake struggled to limit the Miners running game, but suppressed Beulah in passing. Miner's quarterback Nathan Battest passed for 78 yards, completing three of six attempts.
“Our guys are playing tougher,” Lambrecht said. “Beulah is a tough team and they’ll smash it at you. They’re going to hit you in the chin and a lot of guys stepped up for that and that’s what we need to see. If you’re going to play that physical for four quarters, that’s big for us.”
An 0-2 start may not be ideal for the Firebirds, Lambrecht said his team needs to stay positive and realize where they are starting and where they are going to end up. Firebirds get a break from top ranked state competition next week as they host Watford City, who fell to No. 3 Hillsboro-Central Valley on Friday, 39-6, and lost to Beulah in week 1.
“We just need to do what we do and go hard at em,” Lambrecht said. “That’s all we can do. Prepare for them, learn from our mistakes and if we do that, we can get better.”
Lake Region football Friday night scores
North Border - 46
North Star - 44
No. 1 Langdon/Edmore/Munich - 56
Park River Area - 8
St. John - 42
New Rockford-Sheyenne - 36