Dallas Ehrmantraut is getting involved.
The senior athlete’s increased work load is a conscious decision by the Verndale Pirates coaching staff, which has found new ways to get Ehrmantraut the ball.
During the Pirates’ 50-27 regular-season finale against Ortonville, Ehrmantraut caught 15- and 13-yard touchdown passes from quarterback Dillon Card. He also scored on a 29-yard run and topped off his four-touchdown display with a 50-yard interception return.
Normally a receiver, Ehrmantraut finished with 43 rushing yards on six carries to go with his two touchdown passes.
“We’ve used him more in the backfield lately because he’s just a good all-around player,” said Verndale head coach Mike Mahlen. “He has good quickness and we just wanted to get the ball in his hands somehow. As a receiver, we didn’t feel like we were getting him enough touches.”
Ehrmantraut made the most of his touches Tuesday. On nine carries he gained 102 yards and scored on runs of 6 and 68 yards. He caught three passes for 71 yards. All three catches went for touchdowns.
“I am having fun,” said Ehrmantraut. “The last couple of games I’ve been running the ball a little more and getting more touches than usual. I see myself more as a defensive player, but I’m having fun with the offense.”
He’s also the team’s leading tackler despite playing safety or cornerback depending on the other team’s passing threat.
“I love playing safety, but I’ve been playing a lot more cornerback lately,” said Ehrmantraut. “But playing safety I get more chances at making tackles. I can see the whole field and come up and try to make the play at the line of scrimmage. That part of the game comes natural to me.
“Then, in pass defense, I can see the play right away and I can direct the corners were to be and what to expect.”
For the season, the three-year starter has caught 17 passes for 265 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s rushed the ball 28 times for 216 yards and three touchdowns and six two-point conversions.
Defensively, he leads the team with 55 solo tackles, 51 assists, three interceptions and two fumble recoveries.
“He’s not very big, but he has quickness and athletic smarts,” said Mahlen. “It’s the same in basketball and baseball. He’s a good student in the classroom, which carries over onto the athletic field.
“Plus, he’s not afraid to throw his weight around, although he doesn’t have a lot of it to throw around. He makes a lot of his tackles at the line of scrimmage. He comes up and makes the tackle. He gets out on the sweep plays and he’s very good at limiting running plays to three or less yards.
“He is a good fundamental tackler. He tackles low and tackles like you’re supposed to.”
Other notable performances:
Cross country: Michael Ryan, Pequot Lakes, won the Birch Tree Conference meet with a time of 17:26.
Football: Drey Loge, Pine River-Backus, finished with 146 yards and three touchdowns against Lake of the Woods.
Evan VanErp, Wadena-Deer Creek, rushed for 121 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 71 more yards against Royalton.
Devin Strack, Pillager, rushed for 256 yards and two touchdowns and returned a kick 94 yards against Lake Park-Audubon.
Travis Richards, Pillager, rushed for 100 yards and three touchdowns against Lake Park-Audubon.
Josh Lanners, Pierz, rushed for 225 yards and a touchdown against Maple Lake.
Jalen Wuchko, Little Falls, rushed for 331 yards and six touchdowns against Milaca.
Daniel Hudrlik, Crosby-Ironton, rushed for 221 yards and four touchdowns and caught a pass for another touchdown against Esko.
Zack Olander, Crosby-Ironton, rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown against Esko.
Soccer: Dawson Barringer, Lake Region, scored three goals against Woodcrest.