BISMARCK — The Bismarck-Henning football team is rapidly moving up to speed.
Quickness in abundance is not a trait which coach Mark Dodd has seen among the Blue Devils during his tenure.
“For four years, team speed has been a weakness,” Dodd said. “Except for David Ingram, we haven’t had the breakaway kids. This year, our overall speed is improved, and that’s exciting.
“When you add speed, it makes everything better. We hope to turn 3-yard gains into 5- or 6-yard gains.”
Reed Collins, the 2010 rushing leader, returns better than ever. He’s one of at least eight squad members with above-average speed.
“He looks like he did as a sophomore,” Dodd said. “He dropped 20 pounds and he’s fast and physical.”
He’ll share carries with fullback Kevin Allen, the athletes Dodd believes will be “our bread-and-butter.”
Collins needs 527 rushing yards to pass Michael Packard’s career rushing total (2,354 yards).
Dodd isn’t worried about establishing a full-time quarterback. Krystian Ingram passed for 663 yards a year ago and is being challenged by Caleb Bergman.
“We don’t have to live and die with one guy,” Dodd said. “I plan to use both. They both have good skills and leadership.”
The job of protecting the backs will be the responsibility of a line which could include Josh Kessler and Joey Moulton at tackles, Zack Akins and Cole Acton at guards and Austin Reinken at center.
“Up front, we’re solid and a little bigger than we have been,” Dodd said.
Acton and Kessler are two of the strongest Blue Devils. They’ve each benched 300 pounds, a total which Morgan Supergan has also exceeded.
The 280-pound Supergan, a wrestling state qualifier, will be a fixture on the defensive front and could play various roles on offense. He could spend time on the line or in the backfield.
“His first priority is on defense,” Dodd said.
When B-H goes to the passing game, Dodd said, “for the first time, we have some versatility.”
Adam Baker is a third-year starter as a receiver who averaged 27.8 yards per catch as a junior. Others seeking pass-catching jobs are Patrick Ganley, Anthony Helton, Ty Hufford, Dustyn Ingram, Zach Martin and Tanner Ribbe, who a year ago suffered a broken collarbone on the third day of practice.
Dodd likes his squad’s potential.
“This team has the talent to go as far as they want,” he said. “In my five years, this is the most exciting team we’ve put on the field.”
After 10 practices, 54 of 55 squad members had been to every workout. That turnout is alleviating one of Dodd’s concerns.
“Two weeks ago, the only issue was work ethic and attitude,” he said. “As of now, they are stellar.”
The defense will feature Reinken and Supergan at ends with Acton and Kessler at tackles. Allen, Collins and Sam Shoaf will form a formidable linebacking crew.
The quality of candidates in the secondary are all “very competitive,” Dodd said.
Among the contenders are Baker, Ganley, Helton, Dustyn Ingram, Ribbe, Luke Horton and Chase Whorrall. Horton, a 170-pound junior, is regarded by Dodd as “one of our two or three top hitters.”
B-H’s roster includes 16 seniors and 15 overall lettermen. Collins and Kessler are each seeking their fourth varsity letters in football. Thirteen freshmen are playing football.
Dodd is assisted by Greg Allsopp, Kyle Gutterridge, Art Reinken and Dave Robertson.
The quest this season is to beat opponents the Blue Devils have struggled with in recent seasons. Last year’s team ended with a 5-5 record.
“We have to prove we have the ability to beat good teams,” Dodd said. “Until we get to that point, we’re still an underdog. Until we beat those perennial powers, we’re in the middle.”
B-H opens its season at 7 p.m. on Aug. 26 at Cerro Gordo.