2011 North Dakota & Montana (Week 8)

North Dakota & Montana (Week 8)

Alright, well this is a little late coming out. Mostly because I tried to squeeze one more game in on Wednesday night in Bismarck. Then, it was dealing with getting home in time for the Steubenville-Massillon game. So, I’ll keep this brief.

My weekend started on Thursday in Fargo where I took a cab ride to Davies High School for a game between Fargo Davies and Grand Forks Central. Fargo Davies is in their second year, and had yet to win a home game. The school is situated one mile south of Fargo Shanley’s stadium, a private school. The school campus is located in a desolate stretch of land that’s yet to be developed.

The stadium doesn’t appear to have a name yet, but has a nice scoreboard to the southeast. The home stands sit on the west side going from goal-to-goal about 15 rows total. It has an 8-lane track and large sideline space for the all-metal stadium. Free brats and hamburgers were available before the game courtesy of a sponsor. A nice touch. Along with free noise makers, frisbees, etc.

The Davies Eagles wore gold helmets and pants with burgundy jerseys with gold numbers. They had an oval shaped Eagles’ head logo on the helmets. Grand Forks wore maroon helmets and pants with white jerseys and maroon numbers. This game was initially a mismatch. Although Central wasn’t that good, Davies had only one victory in their history. They opened with Central scoring a 60-yard touchdown by a QB run up the middle to go up 8-0 after a two-point conversion just 19 seconds into the game.

But, Davies came back to tie the game at 8-8 after one. After trading scores, Central lead 21-20 after the third quarter. Davies, scored a 9-yard touchdown run with 1:04 left to take the lead, 26-21. Grand Forks Central was down to a 4th down with 11 yards to go. The pass was to the flat and was short of the line-to-gain. Davies got the ball with :41 on the clock and went into the victory formation. A very vocal student section was going wild as they won their first ever home game in their history.

For the weekend, I planned to see two games in Montana along a desolate stretch of road: Montana state route 200. I love this area of the country as, unlike Texas, its desolation feels imposing. It’s quite a zen-like experience. It’s strange, because it is the ‘main road’ for these people to get east or west.

On Friday, I stopped at Fellman’s in the small hamlet of Jordan, Montana. Fellman’s is the one-stop we-have-it-all establishment in town. They’re a sit-down restaurant, short-order food counter, convenience store, gas station, truck stop, and motel all in one. A primary establishment in a town of about 500 people.

Garfield County High School is home to the “Jordan Mustangs”. As is common in places, the team does not use the school’s name as their name. The little stadium is on the east side of town just a few blocks from Fellman’s. After getting a great burger and buffalo fries at Fellman’s, I made the short walk along the dirt street to Farrand Field.

Farrand Field is a gem of an old, well-worn stadium. Built strictly for six-man football, the stadium houses the traditional 80-yard field surrounding the outside of the stands an old dirt track. The stadium has a small scoreboard to the south. The only bathrooms are two outhouses located beyond the south endzone. The visitors’ side has enough room for about 40 fans. The home side has a concession stand/press box located to the north of the main stand. The main stand has four rows of wooden seats on metal rails. There’s a steel bar superstructure going behind and above the stands that’s covered in sheet metal to block rain, snow, and wind. It also echos the fans that do sit in the stands.

The stadium does have lights. And talking to a local, the boosters of the school do a lot to keep the field up, including the lights. Because, as he said, the players would much rather play under the lights than in the afternoon on Saturday.

Admission was $4 and included a little roster sheet/program. The visitors were a co-op between Lambert and Richey. The co-op plays in Lambert, but goes by Richey-Lambert or R&L. Their helmet has an RL logo. However, given that the state recognizes the city where the co-op plays first, I will call them Lambert/Richey to conform to the Ohio/Texas way of labeling teams.

The Jordan Mustangs wore black helmets, jerseys, and pants with orange numbers and facemasks. White outlines around the numbers. White names and white and orange MUSTANGS written across with the chest. Also, wearing orange socks.

The Lambert/Richey Fusion (as the co-op was known) had blue helmets with white jerseys and pants. Blue numbers, sleeves, and socks with red upper arm segments. A white RL logo is on the helmet.

About 200 people were in attendance as Jordan jumped out to a quick 6-0 lead. The 2-4 Mustangs then fell apart as the 4-2 Lambert/Richey squad reeled off sixty straight points before Jordan broke away with another TD to end the game, 60-13.

The refs for this game weren’t that good. But, they were fair and you could tell they were doing their best to keep up. During the game there was a huge hit on a Mustangs players that delayed the game for almost a half hour as a stretcher was brought out for the injured young man. The head coach did tell the crowd that he is conscious and the one team assistant (the one as in only one), remarked after returning to the sideline that he can squeeze their hands and that he’s being taken by stretch for precaution but it didn’t appear serious. The whiplash involved with the hit he took would surprise me considerable if he didn’t have a severe concussion. He was out cold on the field for quite a while.

After the game, it was back to Fellman’s to wait until morning to go drive over to Grass Range, one hundred miles away. The town of Grass Range is even smaller than Jordan with a scant population of 143 as of the last census. They operate a football team thanks to a co-op with nearby Winnett (about 20 miles east on route 200).

I arrived in town and parked at the Little Montana Truck Stop and Cafe. Which, like Jordan, is the hub of commerce for the little town. Acting as a grocery store, restaurant, convenience store, gas station, and RV park. It is the place to be on a Saturday morning for breakfast. I stopped and got a burger and the best piece of Raspberry Pie I’ve ever had.

The school is located immediately behind the Little Montana and the small field is located just east and south of the main school building. Walking around the school, the gymnasium has “Grass Range Rangers” written on it in block type outside. Ryan Field is located on the south end of the town. The admission was $5 and included a one page roster sheet. The game, I found out, is being shown on local community access which was quite interesting to find out.

A small building on the northwest corner appeared to be a concession stand that was boarded up. A small shed was located at midfield on the homeside that acted as the press box. The stands were near non-existent. Unlike other six-man stadiums, there was no parking allowed around the field. A few parked outside the fence and faced the field. The stands, though, were largely unnecessary. Of the sixty or so on the homeside, roughly 15 sat in either of the two stands. Only eight visiting fans made the trip on the bus to accompany the players.

The bulk of the fans simply stood on the sideline beyond the rope fence and followed the action up and down the field. This is what I did, and made you realize the stands were largely unimportant. As the action moved, so did the swarm of fans.

Grass Range/Winnett Rangers wore all blue with white shoulder hoops (a la USC) and red outlined white numbers. The helmets were plain with gray facemasks. The Rosebud Wranglers wore white helmets and jerseys with red pants. Red outlined black numbers with red bucking bronco logos on the helmet with red facemasks. WRANGLERS was written across the chest.

Both teams came in with matching 0-7 records and were both looking for that elusive first victory. Grass Range/Winnett was a young team. Of the nine players, only one was a senior. There were no juniors. And the bulk were freshmen. But, they made up for that with the senior being very big and fast, while a 6’3 freshman weighing 250+ was an absolute beast and when talking to one of the parents, they’ll be much beater as a team once they get older. And I have to agree.

Rosebud opened the scoring four minutes into the first quarter, 6-0. Grass Range matched it, 6-6 after the first quarter. After that, the huge 6’3 freshman broke about eight tackles including a triple-team attempt that he somehow kept his knee from touching down. He then sprang free and rumbled the rest of the way for a touchdown untouched to take a 13-6 lead. Rosebud scored to make it 13-12. And again to make it 18-13. And again to make it 24-13 after a 50-yard run on fourth down. Finally, right before the half, Grass Range regrouped to make it 24-19. But, then disaster struck and Rosebud returned the kickoff 50 yards with :02 on the clock to make it 30-19.

Grass Range scored on a 3-yard run and then intercepted a third-down pass and ran it back 50 yards and converted a run for the single point to go ahead 33-30. With :03 left in the third, again a last second play bit the Rangers. Rosebud returned the kickoff 65-yards for a touchdown only to have the kick-after blocked. Still, they were up 36-33 now. Early in the fourth, Grass Range scored a touchdown on a 35-yard run on 4th and 5. The pass-after was incomplete to make it 39-36. Rosebud effectively ended the game when they were stopped on 4th-and-1 for a ten yard loss. Grass Range fans and parents rushed the field after the game to secure their first win of the season.

After that, I didn’t expect any more games. But, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota were playing Tuesday and Wednesday games to squeeze in an extra week to the regular season and still play on Saturday that weekend. So, on Wednesday I found myself in Bismarck and had the opportunity to see a doubleheader at Coca-Cola Stadium (aka Bismarck Community Bowl) on the campus of Bismarck State College. The problem was having the time and getting to the stadium before the 5pm game let out between Bismarck and Williston.

Instead, I got there a few minutes after the final whistle and instead was content to see one game between two catholic schools: Bismarck St. Mary’s Central hosting Minot Ryan/Sawyer. Ryan came in with a 5-2 record, while St. Mary’s was 3-5.

The stadium hosts several teams. Bismarck State, University of Mary, Bismarck, Bismarck St. Mary’s, Bismarck Century all play there. It has a track, and red Coca-Cola circle logos at the opposing 35 yard lines. There are no other marks. The scoreboard sits on the north endzone of the facility. The stadium sits as a bowl into the hillside.

The game was entertaining an aggravating. It was also unbelievably cold for mid-to-late October. With an overnight low of +20F, it was already down to about 25 by the end of the game.

The St. Mary’s Saints wore blue jerseys and helmets with gray pants and white numbers. The Minot Ryan Lions wore purple helmets and pants with white jerseys and purple numbers and side panels. St. Mary’s scored early to make it 7-0. Minot Ryan was then stopped at the one-yard line. The score held through halftime. Coming out of the half, the Minot Ryan adjustments were strong and they quickly zipped down the field for a touchdown on a 1-yard run and a 2-point run to make it an 8-7 advantage. In the fourth quarter, St. Mary’s drove quickly to go up 14-8.

After stopping Minot Ryan with just a few minutes left I became irritated with the playcalling by St. Mary’s. With the win all but assured, I couldn’t figure why St. Mary’s was going into hurry up offense and trying to score once more. A long pass play put the ball down to the three with less than two minutes to go. St. Mary’s almost threw a pick-six on second down thanks to a blown coverage on a screen pass.

It was after the game that I learned that in order for St. Mary’s to make the playoffs they would need to beat Minot Ryan by at least 14 points. Otherwise, a win would not be enough. This was the first time I had heard a state using point differential or points scored for a playoff tie-breaker.

It was a fun game. But unbelievably cold for October. Luckily it was a clear, dry night.

And, two days later I was in Steubenville to watch the Massillon game at Harding Stadium.

Now, for a brief update about teams I’ve seen play outside the local area or big ‘event’ games.

In Colorado, Platte Valley (4-3) beat Gilcrest Valley, 19-6. Wiggins (5-2) lost to Wray, 36-26. Lamar (5-3) lost big to Florence, 35-7. And Kent Denver (6-1) crushed Platte Canyon, 49-0.

In Kentucky, Boone County (4-3) was idle while Louisville Male (3-5) got whacked, 49-0 by Louisville Trinity.

In Indiana, Fort Wayne Bishop Dwenger (5-4) got thumped, 26-15 by Fort Wayne Bishop Luers. Indianapolis Cathedral (6-3) edged Cincinnati Moeller, 26-24.

In New Mexico, Albuquerque Foothill (2-5) got doubled by Logan, 26-13. Floyd (1-6) got destroyed by Tatum, 59-6. Albuquerque Valley (2-4) beat Albuquerque, 40-0. Albuquerque Manzano (6-1) edged Clovis, 28-20.

In Wyoming, Kaycee (5-2) eeked by Ten Sleep, 54-52. Meeteetse stayed winless (0-7), losing to Guernsey-Sunrise, 58-42. Buffalo (4-3) crushed Torrinton, 52-6. And Riverton (4-4) lost badly to Douglas, 44-15.

In Nebraska, Norfolk (4-4) crushed North Platte, 41-6. And Fremont (1-7) continued to lose, 56-7 to Lincoln North Star.

In Missouri, Boonville (7-1), who beat Moberly 7-0 in the game I saw, beat California 7-0 on Friday. Moberly (4-5) beat Mexico, 17-7. Crystal City (5-3) got the best of Festus St. Pius X, 49-13 while Hillsboro Grandview (1-7) barely lost, 28-21.

With the Bismarck game, I was up to 35 games on the season. I won’t be seeing the Minnesota state semifinals (barring a miracle now), but will still get to see the OHSAA titles at minimum. For Week 9, I’ll be home in Steubenville and have already seen the Big Red-Massillon game. I intend on seeing the Bellaire-Edison game tomorrow followed by the end of the Linsly-Allderdice game. At night, I’ll be seeing the Catholic Central-Oak Glen game at Harding Stadium. And, on Sunday, I’m taking my father to the Browns-Seahawks game in Cleveland.

Another hectic weekend. But, it should be fun.

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