9-MAN PLAYOFFS: L-L-M heads to Larimore
Saturday will mark Week 1 of the five-week 9-Man playoffs, but LaMoure-Litchville-Marion football already had a head start to the festivities.
The Loboes were faced with a must-win contest against Linton-HMB last Friday night just to make the final 20 teams. L-L-M eventually edged L-HMB 30-26, earning the right to face Region 2's Larimore (4-4) Saturday afternoon on the road at Lein Field.
"We knew coming in the winner would get into the playoffs so we treated it like the first round," said Loboes coach Andy DelaBarre. "It was a back-and-forth game and I was happy with how we competed."
After topping Wyndmere-Lidgerwood, the defending 9-man champions, 35-0 in Week 1, L-L-M have been in a holding pattern of two losses and two wins, giving them a 4-4 record on the year.
"We've had our ups and downs throughout the season," DelaBarre said. "We've had our backs against the wall the last couple weeks but we're not going to back down."
The Loboes started with senior Shay Ness at quarterback but moved him to running back—since that's what he mostly did to begin with—and shifted sophomore wide receiver Aiden Brown to under center.
"He's taken the reins and allowed Shay to be in space by running and catching the ball," Delabarre said about Brown. "It helps our offense flow better."
Caleb Hirschkorn and Benji Heyd remain the top L-L-M receiving threats out wide.
"I'd say Caleb is our top passing target," Delabarre said. "Benji doesn't have the stats for a kid like him but we feel well-balanced for who goes out and catches the ball."
Defensively the Loboes have allowed just under 28 points per game, while scoring 31.4.
"I think we've felt like it's been the best it's been all season," Delabarre said of offense and defense. "We've made little tweaks all year and we know what our bread and butter plays are. Far as personal, we feel good about players we have in certain spots."
Half of Larimore's 14 players are seniors led by tight end/safety Logan Wakefield and running back/safety Ethan Moore. Junior Jacob Schempp is the quarterback.
"They have lots of experience," Delabarre said. "They have some good receivers/backs and they don't have just one guy, which makes them well-balanced."
The Polar Bears' signature win came during the second meeting with Cavalier, where they won 48-30, after being handed a 30-point loss 17 days prior.
"They've won against good teams in their region," Delabarre said. "They have a three-way attack of how they go about on offense and some skilled players we have to keep an eye on."
The winner between L-L-M and Larimore will face Thompson (8-0) the following Saturday. Kickoff up North will be at 1:30 p.m.
"I think the biggest thing is ball control," Delabarre said. "There has to be no turnovers, being effective on offense and taking away the big plays on defense. Those three aspects will make us successful."