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Published November 02 2011

Big play sets tone for Kindred's football postseason run

Kindred, N.D. - The Kindred High School football team needed a 103-yard interception return for a touchdown in the final game of the regular-season to get into the playoffs.

They were on the brink of being done at the hands of rival Central Cass, a few yards from having a promising season end too soon.

But the halftime words of the Vikings seniors kept playing on a loop inside each player’s head.

“There were a couple of guys who came in (at halftime), stepped up, guys who never really said anything before that got us going,” said senior linebacker Race Heitkamp, whose team will face two-time defending North Dakota Class 2A Fargo Shanley at 1 p.m. Saturday at Sid Cichy Stadium for a berth in the Dakota Bowl. “It made us all think. This is it. You can’t sit on the sidelines. They are not going to lose the game for you. You have to go out and win it.”

Nobody on the Kindred roster wanted the season to end. Especially, after the Vikings battled back from a large first-half deficit against the Squirrels to tie the game at 36-36 late in regulation.

But the impassioned halftime plea of the Kindred seniors was the spark. Sophomore defensive back Eric Bachmeier’s 103-yard interception return as time expired fanned the flame.

And the Vikings have been a raging inferno ever since.

Kindred (6-3) defeated No. 5-ranked Carrington 32-8 in the playoff quarterfinals. The Vikings have outscored their opponents 60-8 since halftime of the game against Central Cass.

“We told our kids at the beginning of the year that there was no reason we can’t be successful on the football field,” Kindred coach Cody Kittelson said. “We don’t talk about winning playoff games and we don’t talk about winning championships. We just talk about doing our best every time and being successful. That is how we have built our program.”

It would be hard to get a Vikings player to admit being surprised that the team is in position to reach the Class 2A title game.

Even with what transpired against Central Cass, Kindred players have believed from the beginning that they have the talent to make a run for a championship this season.

A championship-caliber team finds a way to win when its back is against the wall. And that’s what Kindred did against Central Cass.

The Vikings may be perceived as underdogs heading into its matchup with Shanley. But the opportunity to secure a signature win for the program is knocking. Kindred wants to kick the door down.

“It’s going to take everything we’ve got,” Bachmeier said. “We have to take this week very seriously, and we can’t be messing around. Every practice, every minute means a lot to us.”

When the teams met in the regular season, Shanley beat Kindred 20-14 in overtime.

The Deacons (7-3) have moved away from the spread offense that helped secure back-to-back titles in favor of a grind-it-out running game.

Shanley looks to run first, but has the weapons to go deep downfield via the passing game. The Deacons’ offense was nearly flawless in a 42-12 win against Minot Ryan in the opening round of the postseason.

“The Central Cass game really got us ready for our next game in Carrington,” Heitkamp said. “If we can come back from that, anything is possible.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.

Hotzler’s blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com