Defense powers Devils Lake rushing game for first win of season over Watford City
Prior to the Firebirds game Friday night, it had been almost 11 months since they had found the end zone at Joe Roller Field. Back to back Friday’s at home to open up the 2020 season against top five opponents saw Devils Lake outscored 73-0 and sitting at 0-2. Week three was a different story.
With experience under their belt and a growing sense of confidence, Devils Lake (1-2, 0-0 AA East) shut out Watford City (0-3, 0-1 AA West) and found the end zone three times for its first win of the season, 18-0.
“It was a good finish for the boys,” Firebirds head coach Todd Lambrecht said. “They played hard. We really emphasized having some pride and playing faster and more physical. They stepped up right away and they were doing what we asked them all week and what we’re focused on.”
The Firebirds strong defensive stand and faster pace of play paved the way for a two touchdown performance from sophomore running back Colton Schneider. He would power in through traffic for a 10-yard score to put the Firebirds up 12-0 at halftime. In the mid-third quarter he would find a hole around the 10-yard line and rush in to put Devils Lake up 18-0. Schneider would finish with a team high 188 yards on 32 attempts.
“Our line did a great job today and had perfect blocking,” Schneider said. “They allowed me to make quick cuts and have opportunities to score. A win is really nice and our defense did great.”
Strong defense all around turned into offense as the Firebirds offensive line gave the rush a little more breathing room. While Lambrecht said he didn’t see too much of difference in holes compared to the last two weeks, Schneider gives credit to the line for his success on the rush.
Devils Lake’s offensive line brought a toughness to the gridiron that the coaching staff has been emphasizing. The Firebirds offense finished with 258 yards of offense on the night, with 17 first downs.
“There were some runs that he [Schneider] made on his own, but our offensive line played really well,” Lambrecht said. “They were off the ball, hitting their blocks and when they miss something here and there, they talk to each other. You can see them chatting back and forth, and they figure it out.”
On the other end of the field, the defense picked off the Wolves twice, including a pick from sophomore wide receiver Dylan Hintz at the 3-yard line in the final minute of the first quarter. That would be the closest Watford City would get to the end zone the entire night. The Firebirds limited the Wolves to 68 yards on 27 attempts.
“Our defense stepped up and our front seven played really well,” Lambrecht said. “Our front three D-line played excellent and did their jobs like they’re supposed to. Our secondary made a few mistakes here and there, but nothing overly costly.”
Friday’s win is one that the young roster can use as a model moving forward according to Lambrecht. The majority of the Firebirds offensive conversions were made by sophomores and juniors rather than the team leaning heavy on senior performance.
“We’re just trying to improve on the little things, like our technique,” Lambrecht said. “We want them to give them a better knowledge of the sports and how the game is played overall.”
At the same time, Devils Lake struggled in the point after attempt, missing an extra point after the first touchdown and two two-point conversions in the second and third quarters. Deciding on whether or not to send out the kicker or go for two is on a situation to situation basis for the Firebirds coaching staff. Last week against Buelah, Devils Lake either went for it on fourth down or would punt it away, not going for the kicking option.
“It’s more so about what we’ve got going for us,” Lambrecht said. “We’ve got some young guys kicking and sometimes when you miss that one you don’t want to keep curtailing until we get a chance to work on his confidence. We got two good two-point plays out there, but we didn’t finish them out like we were supposed to.”
The Firebirds get a chance at redemption next week as they travel to Bismarck to take on St. Mary’s Central. Devils Lake was at the short end of a shutout to the Saints in week one, 38-0, at Joe Roller Field.
“I haven’t watched any film on what they’ve [St. Mary’s Central] have done differently, so it’s too early to tell if it’s going to be a different game,” Lambrecht said. “We’re going to prepare for them like we do for everybody every week and go in there with the best game plan we possibly can have.”
Contact Jack Williams with any comments JGWilliams1@gannett.com or on Twitter @jackgwilliams.
Lake Region football Friday night scores
Devils Lake - 18
Watford City - 0
St. John - 60
Benson County - 8
North Star - 39
Nelson County - 0
Langdon/Edmore/Munich - 48
Rugby - 0
Four Winds - 44
Standing Rock - 20