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MonDak Thunder quarterback Darian Holecek rushes with the football during a practice session at the Williston Area Recreation Center on Wednesday, Nov. 6.

On Saturday, Nov. 2, the MonDak Thunder (7-3) won their opening round playoff game against the Power/Dutton-Brady Titans in blowout fashion, 50-0. Looking for their first Montana C-6 state championship since 2017, the Thunder are scheduled to take on Hot Springs (10-0) in the next round of the state postseason tournament on Saturday, Nov. 9.

The Williston Herald asked MonDak football coach J.R. Johnson for thoughts on his team’s most recent performance, as well as a look ahead to the Thunder’s second-round opponent. Here is what Johnson had to say.

What were the keys to victory in your last game against PDB?

Johnson: Fundamentals. As a team, we were better at blocking and tackling than they were. We also won the turnover battle four to nothing.

We kept our defensive checks basic and simple, which allowed our kids to play fast. We held them to just 87 yards of total offense, that’s pretty unusual for 6-man football. Offensively, we blocked really well and our ball carriers ran the ball hard.

Has this team exceeded your own expectations in 2019?

Johnson: No. With the talent and maturity we have, I expected us to be in the mix towards the end. There’s only a few teams left, and we’re one of them.

What would you say was the biggest challenge your club has been able to overcome thus far in 2019?

Johnson: We needed to get better at blocking. Early on, we weren’t very good, or consistent at it. The kids have realized the importance of good blocking. They’ve worked hard to improve at it. Now they’re seeing the results.

What would you consider a successful playoff run for this year’s Thunder team?

Johnson: We treat the playoffs like a one week season. Just win this week. There’s no next week if you don’t take care of business this week. At this point, everyone’s chasing a state title.

There’s no such thing as a ‘moral’ victory for us. If we get beat, it better be because they were a better team.

What do you know about your next opponent Hot Springs, and what will be your approach in that game?

Johnson: They’re very fast and very athletic. They’re a spread team that utilizes multiple weapons. We need to take away their best offensive sets and force them into the back of their playbook. That’s easier said than done.

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