North Star football in need of 'culture shock' after homecoming blowout to North Prairie

Jack Williams
Devils Lake Journal
North Star freshman quarterback Dane Hagler maneuver's around a North Prairie defender in a game against the Cougars on Sept. 18 at North Star High School. The Bearcats lost 48-22.

Bearcats head coach Daniel Grande has been trying to kick start a winning culture at North Star throughout the season. After a 39-0 win last weekend over Nelson County, it looked like that fuse was about to be lit. Then the Bearcats took a step backward. 

Struggling to hold back a Cougar rush that scored 48 points on the Bearcats and faltering to finish offensive drives, North Star (1-4, 1-4 Region 2) dropped its fourth game of the season to North Prairie (3-2, 2-2 Region 2), 48-22. 

"We're trying to have a change of culture here, and I hope this one sunk in with them," Grande said. "I'm a big culture guy and I've been preaching it to them, but they need practice winning. They need to learn how to win and some of the younger guys aren't there yet." 

Where the Bearcats really struggled was combating the Cougars offensive game on the ground as time after time North Star struggled to complete tackles. In many situations, Bearcat players would find their target, but would eventually see the North Prairie player break free. 

"We had guys in the right spots, but just couldn't make tackles, Grande said. "That's been the story all year. On defense, those guys are just a little young in those spots and they've struggled at times. Sometimes seniors on freshmen are hard to ask of a kid." 

North Star is in its second year of welcoming in a heavy underclassmen roster. 14 players on the Bearcats 21 man roster are comprised of freshman and sophomore's still developing on the defensive side of the ball. 

The Cougars exploited North Star's defensive flaws right off the first drive. North Star freshman quarterback Dane Hagler would fumble the ball on the first drive of the game and North Prairie would recover. On the next drive, Cougars quarterback Andre Elick would receive get a pass and score to make it 6-0. On their next offensive drive, Cougars wide receiver Logan Elick would make a drive to the house from the 30-yard line to put North Prairie up 14-0. 

"By development, mentally, they just need to have the mindset of I'm going to knock this guy out verses I'm going to see what happens here is a big difference," Grande said. "I think they think too much when they go in to make a tackle. Physically they're capable of doing it, but sometimes I just think they get into their own heads."

Despite a struggle on defense, the Bearcats did have a 95 percent completion on the majority of their offensive drives. Throughout the game, North Star didn't struggle to make it inside the 15-yard line but failed to finish for six. 

Bearcats would eventually break the plain halfway through the second quarter off of a 20-yard grab from senior wide receiver Kade Wanzek and a two-point conversion completion from Hagler to put North Star on the board 26-8. While the offense was finally able to convert, the defense continued to struggle as the Cougars would score twice more for a halftime score of 42-8. 

"We just kept shooting ourselves in the foot on offense," Grande said. "We had a couple of fluke interceptions that had some bad voodoo, took some bad bounces off of other people, and ended up on the wrong colored jersey. Sometimes you just have nights like that." 

The second half saw, in ways, a reverse of the Bearcats' performance on defense and offense. The defense shutout North Prairie in the third quarter, but the offense managed to only convert once in the third quarter, despite breaking into the Cougars end of the field several times. Senior running back Jeremiah Hill would make a long grab from Hagler to score and make the score 42-16. 

The fourth quarter saw the offense continue to falter and the defense hold its ground. After a long timeout due to injury on the North Star end, the Cougars would capitalize to rack the score up to 48-16. In the ensuing drive, North Star would once again break into the Cougars' offensive end and fail to convert as the quarterback would be sacked, fumble the ball and North Prairie would pick it up. 

Hill would drive in for his second touchdown of the night, but it would be too little too late for the Bearcats on homecoming. The loss puts North Star in a similar situation they were in last season as five games in they were 0-5. A minor improvement from last season has the Bearcats at 1-4. 

Lessons of bringing a winning culture back to Cando aren't easy ones to be taught. However, Grande is focused on bringing that culture back one day at a time. 

"We've just got to tell them that this one is going to sting," Grande said. "By the looks on most of their faces this one did sting, so we're taking steps in the right direction." 

Bearcats face an even bigger challenge next week hosting Cavalier, who is 5-0 and knocked off North Prairie 42-6 two weeks ago. On Friday, the Tornadoes bested Benson County 26-6. 

"We're just looking to improve one day at a time," Grande said. "Hopefully we go into practice, learn something, and come out hungry after getting our butts kicked like that." 

Contact Jack Williams with any comments at or on Twitter @jackgwilliams

North Prairie running back Xavier Mitchell throws a pass to quarterback Andre Elick in a game against  in a game against the Bearcats on Sept. 18 at North Star High School. The Bearcats lost 48-22.

Lake Region football Friday night scores

No. 1 Bismarck St. Mary's Central - 54 

Devils Lake - 0 

No. 1 Langdon/Edmore/Munich - 48 

Harvey/Wells County - 16 

North Border - 50 

New Rockford-Sheyenne - 8 

Cavalier - 56

Benson County - 6 

St. John - 48 

Nelson County - 14 

North Prairie - 48 

North Star - 22