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Greg DeVillers / Forum News Service, Published July 17 2013

Hillsboro-CV QB back on the field after serious knee injury

MAYVILLE, N.D. – Brendan Dufner came here Monday feeling a little anxiety.

As a quarterback on the 9-man East team for the annual North Dakota Shrine Bowl, Dufner knew he would take his share of hits. And the last hit he took back in October – which resulted in a serious injury to his right knee that ended his football season and wiped out his basketball season – was fresh in his mind.

“I was kind of leery about playing this game,” said Dufner, who graduated from Hillsboro High School this spring. “That last play has kind of stuck in my mind.

“The first time I got wrapped up in practice and took a little hit, I kind of cringed. But it was OK. I think I’ll be fine. But I think (the injury-related tackle) will always be in the back of my mind.”

Like many of the athletes who will be playing in the Shrine Bowl on Saturday in Grand Forks’ Alerus Center, this will be Dufner’s last organized football game. He plans to attend North Dakota State and won’t pursue athletics.

But Dufner is different from most, if not all, of his teammates in that he is coming off major knee surgery. He spent the winter rehabbing the knee. Playing basketball for Hillsboro-Central Valley was out. It wasn’t until mid-June that Dufner was cleared by doctors to play in the Shrine Bowl.

And even after Dufner committed to playing in the game and had his doctors’ approval to resume activities, Dufner had thoughts of backing out over the summer.

But, Dufner said, “I’ve heard from older guys who played in the Shrine game, about how it was something they always remember, how it was one of the most fun weeks they ever had. I wanted to be a part of that.

“I thought about how football is over and done with for me. But I wanted to play in this game.”

East 9-man coach Elliot Belquist of state champion New Rockford-Sheyenne has seen the enthusiasm Dufner has.

“You can tell he’s excited to be out there playing again,” Belquist said. “He’s really upbeat. It’s nice for him to get one more chance at playing the game.

“He was tough to defend. He was so explosive. I know he gave us fits when he was running their option.”

Dufner and North Border’s Tyler Stockton are the lone quarterbacks on the 9-man East team. They figure to both see time running the offense. Both have experience at quarterback in the option offense Belquist ran at New Rockford-Sheyenne.

Stockton completed 19 of 32 passes (59.4 percent) for 187 yards as a senior. He started the season at quarterback, was sidelined with an injury and came back to finish the season as a receiver.

Dufner will play with a brace on his right knee. That could be a hindrance, as he was a run-first option quarterback for the Burros. Dufner rushed for 667 yards (6.0 per-carry average) as a senior while completing 29 of 70 passes for 527 yards.

He remembers his last high school carry well. The play was early in a first-round playoff game against Wyndmere-Lidgerwood that the Burros wound up losing 27-0.

“I was running the option and tried to cut upfield,” Dufner said. “Somebody wrapped up my legs and drove me back. My leg planted and the knee gave out. On film, we could see the knee buckle. … I’m comfortable passing and running. I can tell (the brace) has slowed me down. It’s restricted my speed and mobility. It’s just something I have to get used to. I’ll be ready for the game.”


DeVillers writes for the Grand Forks Herald