2020 Week 1 (North Dakota)

2020 Week 1 (North Dakota)

With everything going on in the world, my Week 0 plans had gone off a bit smoother than I anticipated. After two games in Utah in Week 0, my plans for week 1 were wide open.

Originally, I was going to take in my first ever Corky Kell Classic in Georgia. An event spanning four days, it would have included 11 games. Three doubleheaders at various high school venues in Greater Atlanta and five games on Saturday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. A stadium I had planned to see games at last year, but the GHSA finals were moved to Georgia State Stadium.

With Covid-19 reaking havoc in the Peach State, and with Kentucky getting pushed back a week, I looked around and saw that, close to Utah, were two states that would start football. North Dakota and South Dakota.

Then the question was, where would I see more than one game? At the time, North Dakota’s state site had little complete info on schedules. And my usual stalwarts of scheduling data were nascent at best. So, I saw that Bowman County had a road game at Oakes set for Saturday. And that meant finding a Friday night game. And I did. Well, I found a few. But, one game stood out among the heap.

Beach, North Dakota.

If you know me, I tend to make lists. Actual or otherwise. And one of them is a list of all the places I want to see a game. And this list, well, it grows faster than I check off stadiums. A sad reminder that of the 16,000 or so football teams in the country, I’ll never see them all. But, Beach held a special spot for me as years ago, about 11 or 12, I stopped in this little outpost in western North Dakota and you could see the football stadium from the gas station at the exit. So, I decided to check it out. I walked the track, went up into the stands and took some photos. Where they are, who knows. Lost to the echos of time.

But, I had always said I would come back one day for a game. Some day. Any day. If I were in the area and they were playing. And for me, ‘in the area’ is a rather loose term than some might use. Basically, I was within about 400 miles of Beach, so that was going to be close enough.

And that’s what I did. I planned it out. Beach on Friday, Oakes on Saturday. And then I saw that the Oakes game was cancelled. But, in its place, Bowman County was now going to be playing a Saturday road game at Heart River. And Heart River plays in one of those other towns I really like, Belfield.

Belfield, if you’ve followed along before, is home to one of my favorite restaurants: Trapper’s Kettle located at the Trapper’s Inn. The stadium itself sits on US85 on the southeast side of town. I’ve seen it. In fact, I saw it just a month ago. I’m in this area a lot. So, why not? Belfield was on my list, too. But not the pressing interest that was Beach.

So, I made plans. And continued making plans. And I found myself at the Bowman Regional Airport Friday morning for a work related reason, and then made the 106 mile drive, via a detour through Scranton, to Beach.

Now, Beach is a town located just a mile east of the Montana state line. It’s ten miles east of another school I saw just last year: Wibaux. They had played a road game at Savage. And again, they’re on my list for a home game at some point. The stadium sits on the northern edge of town, just south of the interstate, but it’s barely visible from field level.

The stadium has expansive views of the prairie spreading off into the northeast and buttes dot the horizon. The sky, on a blistering hot day, was a hazy bluish white. Incredibly bright and unforgiving. But faded to a fantastic pinkish purple as the evening wore on.

The stadium sits in a depression behind the school. A long, slow descent from the ticket booth to the field level puts you right behind the concession stand/restrooms building. The concession stand comes complete with a roof over the patio, which includes many painted metal picnic tables. All courtesy of a local construction company. This made for a great location to sit and wait as the stadium came to live with the buzz of people doing their jobs and the fans making their way to their seats.

Because of Covid, just showing up and getting access isn’t necessarily guaranteed, I checked with Coach Zier, and with the superintendent to have field access. Everything went well, and at 6pm I was on the sideline at Beach’s Buccaneer Field for their game against Hettinger/Scranton.

Now, as I said, I went through Scranton earlier after leaving the airport because, though I’ve been past Scranton, I never stopped into town. And I wasn’t about to go further east on 12 to Hettinger, though I’ve been there in the past. Scranton is a small, quaint town like many other heavily agrarian communities. Large silos along the edge of a railroad cutting northeast from the highway overpass along the edge of town. The school and stadium sits further north, along the main road north out of town.

A small, compact community. Their co-op with Hettinger a necessity in these parts to have football. A reality even Pennsylvanians are aware of, especially in District 9.

#3 Beach (ND) v. Hettinger/Scranton (ND)

The Beach Buccaneers were a solid team, even if lacking poise. Miscues that might have given them trouble were eased by the fact the Nighthawks of Hettinger/Scranton were not going to take advantage of most. Beach kept it on the ground for most of the game and for their big plays. Four touchdowns and three conversions. All on the ground.

Hettinger/Scranton’s only touchdown was on a kickoff return that seemed to make things interesting in the second quarter. For the school and fans themselves, first class all around. Fans, though hampered by the goings ons of the world were still vocal and supportive. Coaches and Superintendent Wegner were first class individuals and can’t speak highly enough of them.

It was, exactly how I expected my game at Beach to go. Sometimes, I might put a game up on a pedestal and be let down when I finally do get to do it. I won’t name schools or games, but sometimes the anticipation of seeing a game at a particular site just is a let down when you finally do get to see a game there.

But, not in Beach. And it’s safe to say, though I do love seeing games at new places and stadiums, Beach is certainly a place I wouldn’t mind stopping by again.

After the game, it was just biding time until Saturday afternoon’s game in Belfield. I had planned to stop at Trapper’s Kettle before the game, but the thought of walking the field with a full stomach started to sound less appealing. Especially with the forecast set at 95F near kickoff.

So, instead, I went with little food and lots of water. And even more water. My one liter bottle, and four bottles of water at the stadium was just enough to tide me over.

#4 Heart River (ND) v. Bowman County (ND)

Belfield, the host of the game, is a great, simple stadium. Highway US85 runs just east of the stadium, and has a large artificial hill constructed for an overpass of the railroad tracks. The stadium sits northeast to southwest, with the home side to the west, with the scoreboard to the southeast. The concession stand is combined with a small room for merchandise, with an incredibly extensive line of clothing. And, to my personal intrigue having a young daughter, they have toddler and infant shirts that have a ‘baby’ version of their logo. Though my daughter is no longer in toddler clothes, I thought that was a special thought someone had that went above and beyond the average every day merchandise booth offerings.

Unlike in Beach, I did have company on the sidelines for this one. The local sports editor for the Dickinson paper was there to cover the games. Dickinson being only 20 miles east, it was well within their coverage territory. The stadium lacks a track, and is rather tight on the sidelines, especially behind the player bench.

Being that it was incredibly hot, some fans used umbrellas to shield themselves from the sun. It was parents day, as well, for Heart River. As the seniors’ parents were trotted onto the field for a small ceremony and then the game commenced after the anthem.

Now, Bowman County is good. And it was a tough game for Heart River to match them. Defensively, the line played well. But their secondary struggled mightily against their passing attack. Giving up four passing touchdowns on the day. It probably could have been a lot worst, but after a 26-0 halftime lead, Bowman County went conservative offensively, rarely throwing the ball and, to my untrained eye, seemed to be going through the motions to not run it up on their northern neighbors. Not, that they were showing them mercy, but just that with the game clearly in hand they could work on some other things and cycle through some players and not need to rub it in.

The lack of rubbing it in, however, meant the running clock never started, so the second half dragged on a bit more than I, or probably quite a few others, would have wanted in the 90-plus degree heat of a cloudless day. The stiff 15mph breeze that blew most of the day was the great equalizer. That, and that despite being in the 90s, western North Dakota is an arid, dry landscape when it’s not actively raining or snowing. So, the air still felt comfortable.

At halftime of the game, I had a double cheeseburger. Done in by the smell from the outdoor grill pulled behind a pickup parked next to the concession stand. And I’m not sure why other schools don’t do this. But, if you’re going to sell a burger, why not upsell a double hamburger or double cheeseburger? It was incredibly good, too. Something only a true grilled burger can be.

Aside from that, it was a great day for photography and I was experimenting with my new lens a lot and was tinkering with various settings. Still getting used to a Tamron compared to the old, much less sophisticated, Canon F4-5.6 lens I had before.

After the game, I stopped at Trapper’s Kettle for dinner, and got a sirloin steak. A surprise as they had remove steaks from their menu this year, but was listed as a special when you entered. Not cheap, though. As I’ve said before, you won’t find cheap there. A 12oz sirloin with sides, and no drink, was $25. Before tax and tip. But, it was worth it. It’s one of my favorite stops in the area and no doubt was I going to pass up dinner there when I as in town.

For the weekend, I spent $28 on souvenirs at Heart River, and $19 on a water and snickers at Beach, and two waters, a sweet tea, a sprite, and the double cheeseburger at Heart River. The souvenir was a $20 shirt for my daughter and an $8 lanyard for myself. Everything else is work related and not counting that in there.

As for my plans next week? Everything’s bigger in Texas. Including High School Football. Right now, I’ve got my Thursday night game set, though I’m waiting to hear back on another game, and Friday is fluid, but currently set on one matchup. Right now it looks like Follett v. Guthrie at Hedley on Thursday, and Claude v. Nazareth on Friday. Both games would be six-man in the upper panhandle. All within an hour of Amarillo. There are a couple of other options. But, I’ll know more starting on Monday.

Wherever I am, I’m sure it will work out.

Photos of the Week

Cade Warbis,Hettinger/Scranton, #10, gets a handful of facemask while in pass defense of Dane Farstveet, Beach, #11. While Josh Dix, H/S, 24, provides support

Buccaneer Kyle Sarsland snaps the ball to Tevin Dietz

Buccaneer Field view to the northeast.

Tanner Jarrett, Heart River 27, tackled by Clay Heimer and Colby Schaff, Bowman County 25 & 34)

Caleb Duffield, Bowman County 28, goes up over the head of Jacob Robb, Heart River 28, for the TD catch.

An unnamed Bulldog gets crunched while Clay Heimer, Bowman County 25, tackles Tanner Jarrett, 27

For more, and larger, photos from this week, click HERE.

For photos from previous weekends and seasons, visit http://www.flickr.com/sykotyk/sets/

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