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Greg DeVillers / Forum Communications Co., Published November 07 2012

Seamless transition for Grafton, quarterback Lunde

GRAFTON, N.D. – Christian Lunde not only entered the football season switching positions. He also faced the task of replacing last season’s North Dakota Class 2A high school football player of the year.

Not to mention that, as the new quarterback, Lunde was in charge of running the offense of a Grafton team that was coming off the first state football championship in the program’s history.

“There definitely was a lot of pressure going into the season,’’ Lunde said. “I felt I had to really improve my game, to do better than last year. Plus, I had to be a leader.’’

The senior starting receiver-turned-quarterback has been up to the task.

Not only are his numbers comparable to his predecessor at quarterback, Jake Hanson, Lunde has also led the Spoilers to a second straight state championship game. Grafton (10-1) meets Fargo Shanley (9-2) at 3 p.m. Friday in the Dakota Bowl at Grand Forks’ Alerus Center. It will be a rematch of the 2011 state title game, when Grafton beat the Deacons 22-8.

Lunde said he heard the doubting questions before the season. How would he fill Hanson’s big shoes? Could the Spoilers have a good team again?

“I didn’t let that bother me,’’ Lunde said. “I just did my own thing. And we used the questions, the pressure, to motivate ourselves.’’

With Hanson as the measuring stick, Lunde has more than held his own.

The senior has rushed for 1,824 yards (6.7 per-carry average) and is 45 of 117 passing for 758 yards. That’s an average of 234.7 combined rushing and passing yards per game; Hanson had a 220.5 average. Lunde has a combined 35 passing and rushing touchdowns; Hanson had 29.

“Christian’s been a bit of a surprise,’’ Grafton coach Tom Maus said. “I knew he’d be a good runner. But I didn’t know he’d be this successful. And he’s gotten more and more comfortable as the year has gone along. He’s been our focal point.’’

While the Spoilers have some balance this season with the rushing of Julian Martinez (117 carries, 572 yards) and receivers Matt Mendoza (15 catches, 246 yards) and Austin Contreras (14-286), Grafton definitely has built its offense around Lunde’s running skills.

“We’ve spread things out to get Christian more open spots to run,’’ Maus said. “In an ideal situation, he would be a running back. He looks like a running back with his strength and shiftiness.’’

The strength of the Spoilers has been the line play. Maus said seniors Zach Peterson and Jaime Villarreal both have played at an all-state level and Sergio Quijano has played very well anchoring the unit from his center position.

“Not many teams at our level can match our line,’’ Maus said. “We play to our strengths. This year it’s been our line and Christian’s running ability.’’

And where would the Spoilers be had Lunde not emerged as a highly productive quarterback?

“Probably not playing this week,’’ Maus said. “As competitive as our region was this year, I don’t know if we would have been in the playoffs without him. It’s tough to say that about one person. But Christian’s done a lot.’’

Greg DeVillers is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald