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Tom Mix, Published November 13 2013

Wahpeton's offense buoyed by balance

Wahpeton - Historically, opposing defenses lining up against the Wahpeton football team could always expect the Huskies to run the football.

Wahpeton’s running game has more often than not been the primary way its offense has advanced the ball, but this fall the Huskies have opened it up.

The running attack is still present, but under senior quarterback Jack Christensen, Wahpeton has added an effective passing game to the fold.

Christensen has thrown for 1,516 yards and 20 touchdowns this season.

“Every game we have played this season, we entered knowing we had options on the offensive side of the ball,” Wahpeton head coach Brian Dokken said. “If one aspect of the offense isn’t there, we know the other is there to help out. Our balanced offense is a big reason we are in the position we are in.”

Wahpeton (10-1) is making its first Dakota Bowl appearance since 1998. The No. 4-ranked Huskies play No. 2-ranked Bismarck St. Mary’s in the Class 2A championship game at 3 p.m. Friday at the Fargodome.

Injuries last fall kept Christensen from settling in at quarterback. He eventually found himself playing tight end.

He was a favorite to win back the starting job in the offseason, and that is when Dokken began to notice the Huskies’ offense getting a new wrinkle.

“Early on in the summer camps and the preseason practices, I could see glimpses of our offense starting to open up,” Dokken said. “We started the year with plenty of athletes, and I thought if we can get the ball to them in space, we could do a few more things offensively rather than running the ball.”

Adding to the need of finding new ways to gain yards on offense was the fact that Wahpeton lost all-state offensive linemen Joel Green and Tyler Ringdahl to graduation.

At least initially, Dokken thought running the ball might be difficult and didn’t want all the pressure to land on all-state senior running back Brock Lingen.

Wahpeton’s offensive line shaped up and paved the way for Lingen and Christensen.

“We still have a great running game,” said Christensen, who also has rushed for 739 yards and 15 touchdowns. “Our passing game this season has really helped open things up more for the running game.”

Lingen has posted 1,348 yards and 20 touchdowns on the ground, averaging 7.5 yards per carry. He has also got involved in the passing game, catching 12 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns.

“The passing game has been huge for us this year,” Lingen said. “It has kept defenses on their heels guessing what we are going to do. It also spreads out the defenses more and opens up big holes for me and the rest of our running backs to run through.”

Christensen has been efficient as well, completing 52 percent of his passes (84 of 162).

“Coming into the year, we knew he had the talent to play quarterback and was already a good decision maker,” Dokken said. “Jack has stepped up for us and has improved each game. He has really blossomed into a great quarterback.”

Christensen said he is looking forward to playing in the Fargodome – a venue where the Huskies’ passing attack has the potential for a big day.

“With no wind, and weather not being a factor, our passing game should be there for us on Friday,” Christensen said. “We will just have to take what they give us.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Tom Mix at (701) 241-5562