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Published November 18 2010

Minnesota Class 2A state football tournament: Bulldogging it, Unbeaten OTC improves as season progresses

Because it feels so unreal, Ottertail Central cornerback Adam Marso wants someone to hit him.

That could do two things. It could make Marso realize this Minnesota high school football season isn’t a dream and it could give him an idea of what it’s like to be on the other end of a big hit.

Getting the big hit or just hurting someone is something the Bulldogs

(12-0) defense has become accustomed to this season by giving up an average of a little more than eight points per game.

“I think it kind of clocked at the beginning of the year that we knew we had the potential to be good,” said Ottertail Central coach Don Seipkes. “We had the potential to be good and we put things together and we’ve gotten better as the season has progressed.”

With Ottertail Central being comprised of two schools, Battle Lake and Henning, the defense knows something about the sum being greater than its parts.

Here’s a look at what’s made the Bulldogs so strong defensively:

The line Seipkes said he returned six starters on defense, and three came from the defensive line.

Of those three, two of them are three-year players who have helped pave the way for the Bulldogs’ 4-4 scheme to work this year.

“Our defensive line does a good job of making a wall up front,” said senior linebacker Brendan Hart, who has 50 tackles and 25 assists this year. “When the alleys open up, it allows us as linebackers to fill in those alleys and make a play.”

Cornerback Chris Haugdahl, who along with Marso has a team-high six interceptions, said the defensive line also has great vision.

Haugdahl, who attends Henning, said the line can manipulate an offense so effectively. That, he says, can lead to the opposing offense making a mistake.

Those mistakes resulted in Ottertail Central setting a goal: creating at least three turnovers a game.

“At the beginning of the year, those turnovers were tougher to come by,” Haugdahl said. “But by the later part of the year, we were getting pretty close and eventually we were over the top when it came to our goal.”

Linebackers, d-backs

If an offense can maneuver around the defensive line, it has to worry about the four linebackers and three defensive backs.

There’s Hart and Austin Skibness, who has arguably been the team’s best player on defense this year.

Skibness, a third-year Battle Lake senior linebacker, leads the team with 78 tackles, 41 assists, five sacks and he’s picked up a fumble recovery and an interception.

“It helps a lot just having guys who have been there and they know their assignments,” Skibness aid. “Now that we’ve played certain teams, we know how to handle it.”

Hart, who attends Henning, swears by Skibness by saying he knows how a play will develop before it happens.

Then there’s the defensive backs, led by Marso and Haugdahl.

Marso, a Battle Lake student, started the season at linebacker but was moved to cornerback to start the playoffs.

How’s that? A defense so versatile it can take a linebacker and put him at defensive back. Not bad at all.

“If I was playing against our defense you’d see big guys up front,” Marso said. “Then if you try to bounce it outside, we got that covered pretty well, too. Then we got a strong secondary also. I think when you look at it, we just have a well-rounded defense.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548