Wins have been tough to come by the last few years for South Border.
But the Mustangs have reversed that this fall. South Border has opened the season with three straight wins and is ranked fifth in the state Class B nine-man football poll the past two weeks.
“There’s no secret our program has struggled for the past few years,” first-year head coach Chuck Brandner said. “The kids have really bought into what we’re teaching them. And no question, the wins have been a big boost.
“The community is excited. It’s good for the school, for the whole community. The kids are wearing their jerseys now with a lot of pride.”
South Border opened the season with a 26-20 win over Grant County-Flasher in Wishek. Following that, they hit the road and blanked Mott-Regent-New England 48-0 before stopping Hettinger-Scranton 26-8 last Friday in Ashley.
The Mustangs have outscored their opponents 100-28 in winning three consecutive non-region contests.
“We’re proud of being 3-0, but that’s not the big goal,” Brandner said. “The big goal is still sitting out there for us to go get.”
Senior quarterback Seth Wolf directs an offense that can pile up yards on the ground or in the air.
“We want to do whatever you give us,” Brandner said. “If you pack the box, we’ll throw on you. If you drop back, we’ll run on you.”
Two weeks ago, Wolf threw for 250 yards. Last week, facing a different look, he ran for 180.
Junior James Schumacher is the Mustangs’ leading tackler at linebacker and is a threat at fullback.
“He runs the ball hard,” Brandner said. “He’s not a side to side kid, he’ll run straight ahead and pick up yards.”
Senior Jackson Meidinger is a key on the offensive line and at linebacker. Senior Ashton Peterson plays a big role in the trenches on both sides of the ball, and the state runner-up in 2020 at 220 pounds has stepped into a leadership role.
“He plays on the line, he’s been making some big plays for us,” Brandner said. “He has become a real captain. When you need someone to step up, he’s a guy you can go to and he can get them going.”
The Mustangs have a brand-new coaching staff, which has worked well together.
Connor Hill calls the offense, with Evan Mellmer running the defense and Josh Wiest running the special teams.
The defense posted a shutout last week and has allowed only one TD in the last two games.
“Evan’s defense is high energy, they pride themselves on gang tackling and getting multiple guys to the football,” Brandner said. “We stay as true as we can to our base. We’re trying to get really good at what we want to do. Evan does an excellent job in getting them ready for what’s coming up next week.”
What’s coming up next is four straight Region 5 contests, beginning on Friday at No. 2-ranked New Salem-Almont. Following the game with the Holsteins, the Mustangs travel to Kidder County before hosting Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter and Central McLean.
“We talked after the Hettinger game, we’re sitting at 3-0 but we have to look at this as the start of a whole new season,” Brandner said. “This is one of the toughest regions in the state. We’re hoping our best football is still out there, because we’re going to need it.”
Back-to-back-to-back games with perennial powers like New Salem-Almont, Kidder County and Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter will be a challenge.
“Those three teams, you think about the weight those teams carry over the years in nine-man football,” Brandner said. “We know that we mentally and physically have to be ready the next four weeks.
“Hopefully, (a 3-0 start) can be a springboard but we can’t be proud of the first three weeks. We have to finish it. We’re playing top-notch programs, top-notch coaches. We know the road is tough.”