The game of the week on the gridiron will be on the 9-man level, with the Holsteins battling the Mustangs for an inside track to a regional title. New Salem-Almont enters this week in some unfamiliar territory, a week of practice after a loss.
It’s been almost two years since New Salem-Almont suffered a loss, and you have to look back further for a regular season loss in 9-man for the Holsteins. It’s safe to say that their 14-8 overtime defeat to Hettinger County Friday has caught the attention of coaches and players.
“I’m sure the eyes were a little bit into the future,” says Head Coach Steve Kleinjan. “It’s that trap game that I like to call it. Not to make excuses but I think our kids kind of got caught in that and we paid the price for it. The Huskies came out and earned a victory against us and did a great job.”
“Win streaks are bound to end at some point,” says senior Ethan Maier. “If it was at any point in the future or it was last week. It could’ve been any time and I think it was good in the middle of the season so we work harder now.”
That refocus has brought new energy to practice, but these players know it doesn’t get easier moving forward. The Holsteins are now shifting their focus to South Border, the Mustang team that is undefeated and is very physical up front.
“Your gap control and your fits in those gaps, we talk about that a lot,” says Kleinjan. “Our technique has to be good and we have to be in those gaps to create a little bit of a bounce or a little bit of a hesitation with their runningbacks so they are not downhill.”
The Holsteins beat South Border in Wishek by eight last season, but with a lot of new faces contributing, players say it will be a team effort, knowing they have to capitalize on their opportunities in the red zone.
“South Border is a really great football team,” says junior Wyatt Kuhn. “They are very hard coached. We know that’s going to be a dogfight until the end. We know that they can run the ball and they’ll hit every single play and match that tempo and match that execution while going through that game.”
“They are very very scrappy sometimes and they hit hard,” says junior Brock Norton. “It’s what South Border is known for. It’s what they probably are always going to be known for.”
New Salem will benefit from being under the lights with Salem Sue this Friday, with hopes that their home crowd can provide the advantage they need.
“It’ll be a playoff atmosphere,” says Kleinjan. “I know South Border will bring a great crowd and we have big crowds on our side of the field and that is something that our kids will feed off of. That energy coming out of the horse trailer and those comfort zone things where hopefully we can contain that momentum and keep that energy that we build up and use it the entire game and we’ll see what happens.”