2023 Week 0 (Dakotas)

2023 Week 0 (Dakotas)

To start the season, I was in Fargo. I didn’t want to be. But, it was easier than going home and then driving right back. My plans to start the season had included my daughter. We were going to be on a road trip, just the two of us, as we have done the past two seasons.

In 2021 and 2022, we had driven to Georgia to take in the Corky Kell Classic. Culminating with an all-day extravaganza at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Having done it twice, I was fairly certain we’d do it again. My daughter enjoyed the non-football aspects of the trip. Including the hotel pool, as well as any playgrounds I could find for her.

But, then, I was informed by Coach Zier for Beach High School in North Dakota of an opening weekend ‘Region 4 Rumble” that was taking place in North Dakota. Under the restructuring of the NDHSAA, the 9-man classification was going to be split into four regions of roughly 10 teams each. Region 4, which is the southwestern region, would open the season with all ten teams playing five games at Mandan’s Starion Sports Complex.

It definitely had me interested. So, with my Saturday planned. It was a matter of scheduling my Thursday and Friday games. Friday was obvious. I had been wanting to see a game in Eureka, South Dakota for a while. And it wasn’t too far from Mandan. Thursday, then, would be one of the few South Dakota games that day. The most interesting in western South Dakota was Dupree hosting Faith. Two rivals just 22 miles apart.

This was still early in the year, so I had plans with my daughter to see the Black Hills, Devils Tower, and then doubleback toward Dupree to start the season. And then plans changed. My daughter’s school was starting a week earlier than it had the previous two seasons. And not only that, but instead of starting on Tuesday, it was starting on Monday. With games Saturday night, that wasn’t going to be productive. However, leaving after the fourth game on Saturday could make it feasible.

The ultimate damper on the plans then was that my daughter wouldn’t be on the trip with me. So, I decided to work instead. Which would take me to Fargo. If I was going to be in Fargo, I wasn’t going to drive as far as Dupree for Thursday night. Eastern South Dakota had a few options. The most obvious and easiest one, from Fargo, would be in Wilmot. Where the Dakota Hills co-op was hosting Sisseton. It kept me close enough to Fargo that it was less than two hours from where I was staying.

It was with a bit of consternation, that I decided on the Dakota Hills game. But, at least I’d see a game in Eureka. It wasn’t expected to be close. At all. Warner was the defending state champions. A halftime 50-point sudden death finish seemed likely. I had watched Warner nearly pull a halftime finish at Northwestern in Mellette last season. But, that would give me an early finish and plenty of time to get situated to head out first thing in the morning for Mandan.

It was as I was going over my final travel plans that I made an unfortunate discovery. North Central was not fielding a varsity football team this season. The three schools: Edmonds Central, Bowdle, and Eureka had determined due to low participation numbers, it would be best to cancel their varsity schedule. And that left me with a wide open Friday night.

I looked around, and with much of North Dakota’s eleven-man schools not starting football that weekend, meant finding anything. And I chose a 5pm game in Center. Center-Stanton was hosting Warwick in a 6-man game just 35 miles from Mandan. This would give me the chance to get a cheap hotel in New Salem. Where I would be a half hour or so from Mandan in the morning.

It was Thursday morning that I was contemplating a different Thursday game. Dakota Hills v. Sisseton was a rivalry game of sorts. While the lone Thursday game in North Dakota was in Grafton. Now, I have been to Grafton. It’s an area of the state more known for Potatoes than for oil. The Grafton Spoilers were hosting the Thompson Tommies. But, Grafton had gone winless for such a long spell, and was projected at such a one-sided game. I didn’t want to make the drive north. I figured, distances similar, I wanted to see a game in South Dakota and a matchup that looked closer on paper.

I picked up a rental truck from Enterprise in Fargo that morning, and started my planned weekend. I drove around Fargo, first, and logged the last couple of miles of US10 through town that I had never been on. And then made my way south. Stopping first at a Dollar Tree for a new notebook to document my travels. And then a Walmart. Before one of my regular midwest stops:

This was in Wahpeton, probably the lone ‘big town’ south of Fargo before you reach Watertown, South Dakota. The pizza wasn’t nearly as good as it could’ve been. While the fried chicken–what they’re probably more famous for–was overcooked.

This has been a long run of bad experiences now at what was a regular stop for me. Maybe it’s just individual locations. The one in Butte, Montana I’ve eaten at many times has been great every time. But quality has been very inconsistent lately.

I crossed into South Dakota along the prairie near the Red River. Then took a small detour through Sisseton to visit the town of the visiting team. Their stadium was nice, located right by the school, with full turf. It was going to be a big difference from the field in Wilmot.

I got into town and it’s a town. The town is bypassed by SD 15 to the north. And the town’s streets are quiet and tranquil. I drove over to the school to be dismayed with the situation. The classic grandstand backstop to the baseball/football hybrid field was gone. Temporary metal bleachers were situated across what was the baseball infield. Adding to it, was the situation with the lights.

I had heard about this from my investigation of where to see a game. But, i didn’t notice this part. The field was being repositioned. But not this season. The lights, however? Those were already setup to be in line with where the field would be going. To their credit, the lights were far better than I had initially considered. But, their dark spots and bright spots on the field made things a little more difficult as the sun set.

Next, will be my reporting for pafootballnews.com

#1 – Dakota Hills v. Sisseton

Many states across the country kicked off their seasons earlier than Pennsylvania. Utah, Alaska, and Hawaii had a full slate of games two weeks prior to the Keystone State. A few independent teams around the country had started here or there. Much of the country started the weekend of August 18th.

In the upper plains, the Dakotas both started football with a small smattering of Thursday games before the bulk of the schedule commenced on Friday.

In North Dakota, the lone Thursday kickoff game was in Grafton, who were hosting Thompson. While South Dakota had a handful of games ranging from the west (in Dupree), the south (in White River), and the east (in Wilmot).

It was in Wilmot where the host Dakota Hills Grizzlies were taking on rival Sisseton Redmen in an 11-man contest. Dakota Hills is a co-op between three schools: the Wilmot Wolves, the Summit Eagles, and Waubay Dragons. The three small schools combine for roughly 178 total high school students. Which would, as a combined team, put them into Class A territory in Pennsylvania.

However, by their numbers combined, they are able to play 11-man football in a state where 9-man football is commonplace. A half hour away in Sisseton, the school’s Redmen form one single school and boasts 264 students. The town of Sisseton is located in the Lake Traverse Reservation that spans the border with North Dakota. The school has an all-weather turf football field with a full stadium. Wilmot, one of two hosts for the Dakota Hills co-op, has a much smaller stadiums. The realities of co-hosting a team much larger than themselves. A similar situation would be Conneaut Area’s consolidation from Conneaut Lake, Conneaut Valley, and Linesville into a 4A level school from what was once small 1A schools.

However, Wilmot is on the rise. After mother nature wreaked havoc on the field last year when lightning destroyed the lighting infrastructure, the field now claims some of the best LED lighting you’ll find anywhere. Though for the time being, the lights are disjointed from the field. Situated to make room for a realignment of the field to an east-west configuration and away from the old baseball/football hybrid layout that saw the field angle from southwest to northeast.

After the game, I made a quick drive north. I had stopped for gas on the way to Wilmot to set for the MPG of the truck I had rented. And stopped at the same gas station on the way back. But only for something to drink. At the game, I had gotten a cheeseburger. But, like many stadiums, the cheese was added after it was purchased. But at least the burger itself tasted great.

In the morning, I was up early. Much earlier than I usually would be. But, maybe it was excitement. But I was ready to start my day. I drove west along I-94 to Tower City. There, there’s a small truck stop famous for their pies. It’s the Tower Travel Center, and their cafe isn’t open most of the day. But, their pies are still for sale in the convenience store side of the building. It was also, there, that I saw their gas for UNL88 was very cheap. At $3.119 compared to $3.599 I had stopped for in South Dakota. This also gave me the incentive to make it back to Tower City on the way back to Fargo if I needed to stop.

One of the nice perks that Enterprise gave me, was that though the truck’s tank was full when I picked it up, I could return it empty without paying for any gas.

I stopped in Steele, a town I’ve stopped in before, to see the field. Since I was going to see Kidder County play on Saturday. After going by the school, I drove over to find a good shot of the water tower. At least that was easier than at Sisseton. Where I had to travel on many, many streets to get one that had an angle that could actually see the water tower from inside the town.

After that, I realized I was running a lot closer on time than I had planned. And I wanted a slight side-trip when I got to Center. And my detour would really need the extra time.

After getting into town, just as I had done with Wilmot, I ventured around to get a photo of the water tower, and a cursory trip around town. But then, the big draw for Center was that, despite its name, is not named for the Scientific Center of North America located not far from town. Center, the town, is named for being the center of its county.

But, I didn’t look to see where the point of interest was in relation to the town. So I headed west, and then checked google maps. And saw it was north of town. So, I followed Google’s second recommended route. And wound up here:

After several miles of very heavy overgrowth on the dirt road, I was back on a highway and heading to the Scientific Center of North America.

While there, I watched as the Warwick mini-bus pass by, heading to their game against Center-Stanton. It would be Warwick’s first ever varsity football game. Previously they had co-oped with other schools. It wasn’t expected to be a close game. But, it was at 5pm and would be over early for a quick night back to the hotel in New Salem I had reserved.

Center-Stanton Wildcats were the defending state champions of 6-man in North Dakota. Which isn’t saying too much, since there are only 7 or so schools playing year-to-year. It’s still new to the Peace Garden State and not fully recognized by the state association. But with the plethora of co-ops happening at the 9-man level, it does seem like a possibility going forward for some schools to give it a try instead of co-oping.

The school sits on the north end of town, and is surrounded by trees. The field sits above the school, a long gravel path leads the way up the long slope to the field complex. Before the game, I talked to the Warwick coaches to get clarification on their roster’s numbers, where the Center-Stanton PA announcer was also checking on the roster. So, we exchanged twitter info and now follow each other on twitter. He’s the regular PA announcer for the team but also covers a lot of north-central North Dakota games.

#2 – Center-Stanton v. Warwick

The 5pm game started with an oppressive heat. Over 90F at kickoff but with a gentle breeze to help tame the heat. The host Wildcats started with a kickoff return for a touchdown, and didn’t let up. After kicking off as well, they returned a fumble on first down, to score a second touchown. Only 26 seconds into the game. A few plays later, Center-Stanton returned an intercepted lateral for a score. A minute later, another defensive touchdown. By this time, Center-Stanton had four touchdowns, and not one offensively. Not even an offensive play. They changed that later in the quarter with a 30 yard run, making it 30-0 just over halfway through the first quarter.

Warwick was already gassed, and struggling to keep pace, let along operate their offensive or defensive units. Fielding only seven active players, their team was predicated on keeping the healthiest six on the field and accepting their fate against what looked to be the best six-man team in the state.

With the fifth touchdown, the running clock was implemented in the first half. The second quarter moved quicker, and a fumble recovery was converted into a 16 yard TD pass on the final play of the half. Giving Center-Stanton a comfortable, insurmountable 59-0 lead.

The regulation halftime commenced, and then the third quarter’s running clock would start again. But just over a minute into the second half, Warwick suffered their second injury. Leaving them with just five healthy guys. And it was to a kid who had tweaked something earlier in the game. At 8:55 left in the 3rd quarter, the game was called final by the two teams.

With the 5pm start, this meant the game ended just after 6pm. And there were other games. I had anticipated an early night. But not that early. So, I decided to make the drive to Beulah. Just under an hour away. It was another place on my bucket list that I had foregone in order for the easier travel on Saturday. I would also have to drive past Hazen. Hazen, too, was hosting a game. In fact, route 200 would drive right past their field.

After walking down to the truck, I got situated to make the long drive at breakneck pace. I was set to arrive just minutes prior to kickoff. Which meant I would probably miss kickoff as parking might be a bit suspect. Beulah plays at a park, surrounded with trees and small lanes of travel for the park goers. I really didn’t want to stop in Hazen. But as I approached the town, I drove past the scoreboard that read a few minutes left for pregame. And realized I would never make Beulah in time. Plus, it would be adding minutes to get back to New Salem and my reserved hotel.

So, I turned around at the next street, and headed back to Hazen’s stadium.

#3 – Hazen v. Velva/Garrison/Drake-Anamoose

Now, I didn’t mind seeing the game in Hazen. I had seen the field before. It sits right next to Route 200 following its easterly path from Montana to the Missouri River near Washburn and beyond to Minnesota It momentarily splits into 200 and Alternate 200 just east of Hazen, which is the more ‘direct’ route. However, I’m well acquainted with Hazen. But this matchup wasn’t it. They were facing the defending state champion Velva/Garrison/Drake-Anamoose. In just two years, Velva had added two schools to their co-op. After a few years of playing independently. But it wasn’t projected to be a great game. It would be my second eleven-man game of the opening weekend.

I pulled around behind the stadium and found parking along the street. A small stretch that was unclaimed that quickly had four other cars fill in behind me. I got into the stadium about seven minutes to kickoff.

Velva, as they were called, or VGDA as I referenced them, would put up three touchdowns and three two-point conversions to take a commanding, and comfortable, 24-0 lead after twelve minutes.

I’d find out that @owen_pxp, the play-by-play announcer for Center-Stanton, also found the opportunity of the early finish to make the drive to Hazen. At halftime, I would retread to the stands from the mosquito-infested plush grass of the field to do photos and catch up with Owen. The third quarter went quickly, and VGDA would take a 42-0 lead into the final frame. Only relinquishing their shutout with 3:06 left in the game on a short TD run. Velva/Garrison/Drake-Anamoose would win, 48-8.

After the game, I drove down to New Salem to my hotel. It was a freebie. And it was as barebones and ‘might die’ as possible. But I’ve been in far worse. Though this one did have a lamp that shorted out and blew the breaker to the entire room. Luckily, the innkeeper seemed to be aware of the problem and simply flipped the breaker back on after I told them I had unplugged the death lamp.

In the morning, I stopped at the Dollar General nearby for sweet tea. And then the gas station near the exit for a cup of ice, and what turned out to be a better than average breakfast burrito. Instead of going the Mexican route with some chorizo and egg, or bacon, sausage, etc. It was egg and sausage with sausage gravy liberally applied to the ‘burrito’ rolled taco.

It was a short drive east on I-94 to Mandan. Getting off the exit and following the northern parralel route to the sports complex. I parked right out front, as I got there nearly an hour early. But found out it wasn’t the best entrance for media. It was the fan entrance, which passed through the interior of the complex, and the ice arena. Then through the large esplanade to get people to the top level of the football stands. Then, across the back of the pressbox to the steps, down to the concrete pathway behind the stadium, level to the front row of seats, down and around the sloping ramp to the northwest corner of the stadium and into the field.

It is interest, to note, that when you enter a stadium a thousand-plus miles from home. Where you have never met anyone previously. And someone sees you, recognizes who you are, and screams out your username. Needless to say, it’s still a cool experience.

The rest of the game recaps will be from my PA Football News Article.

North Dakota is a state not known for high school football. The lightly populated Northern Plains state gets overlooked by many of its midwest and great plains cohorts when it comes to the national stage.

Partly due to the population. A state that spans 340 miles wide and 211 miles tall and boasts just 105 football playing teams. Many of which are formed via co-ops between neighboring schools. Co-ops are no stranger to Pennsylvanians. Where the state’s roughly 722 sports-playing schools have just 556 football teams. Many of which much smaller schools form alliances with larger schools in order for their students to have the chance to play football.

In North Dakota, though, the co-op is much more equal. Though in every instance, one name must come first, there are some co-ops that much more resemble Union/ACV’s co-op than, say, Greenville and Living Word Christian had utilized in the recent past.

As small towns have shrank, and enrollment numbers decline, there’s only so much that can be done. North Dakota utilizes 9-man football, of which there are 39 teams recognized in the state’s association. Many with word-salad like names such as Linton/Hazleton-Moffitt-Braddock/Strasburg-Zeeland that get truncated to simple nameplates such as Linton/HMB or Napoleon/G-S. Some favor the ‘host’ team in the equation, while others become a new entity. Taking on an entirely new name. Such as with Central Clarion County in Pennsylvania.

Schools such as Wishek and Ashley combine to form “South Border”, yet take the Ashley School’s nickname of Mustangs. Others, come up with all new names. Mott-Regent and New England have a co-op that now goes by the name “Hettinger County” with Huskies as the nickname for the combined Mott-Regent Wildfire and New England Tigers.

In 9-man football, the state is split into four regions. With the southwest quadrant being Region 4. With North Dakota, like many western states, leaning to the east with population, the Region 4 schools span a considerable distance. The home fields would take nearly 500 miles to drive between all ten primary stadiums.

Under the most recent restructuring of the NDHSAA, the ten Region 4 teams decided on kicking off the season with a neutral site event at Mandan’s Starion Sports Complex. Akin to Ohio’s Spire Institute, it’s a sports mecca. Hosting a football stadium, ball fields, track facilities, as well as an indoor ice hockey rink. The complex located conveniently off Interstate 94 in the bustling town of Mandan. Just west of the state’s capital: Bismarck.

Of the ten teams, only one is not a traditional co-op under one name is Beach. The Beach Buccaneers call the small outpost in western North Dakota, along the border with Montana, home. East of there, are three co-ops before you reach Bismarck.

Hettinger/Scranton Knighthawks hail from the southern border towns of Scranton and Hettinger along US 12. Though 27 miles apart, are linked inextricably through sports. All sports teams are a co-op between the pair. Unlike some co-ops that are a necessity of one sport or another, the reality of small schools in wide-open areas bring widespread locales together.

North of Hettinger, is the town of Mott, who along with local Mott-Regent form a co-op with New England to create Hettinger County. Just to the east of Hettinger County is Grant County. Grant County High School is located in Elgin. Their co-op is with Flasher, a small town in Morton County to Grant County’s northeast. Just across the county line. Combined, the Grant County Coyotes and Flasher Bulldogs create the Grant County/Flasher Storm.

Aside from the Hettinger/Scranton, Hettinger County, and Grant County/Flasher co-ops, there are only two other football teams south of the 46°50’N latitude line and west of the Missouri River. An area 167 miles wide, and 66 miles tall. An area roughly 1/4th the size of Pennsylvania has just five high school football teams. In addition to the three, there’s also 11-man Bowman County in the southwestern corner of the state. And Standing Rock, which plays in the extra-state All-Nations League which spans North Dakota to Nebraska, and mostly featuring South Dakotan native schools.

Along the I-94 corridor, Region 4 has two more schools before reaching the Missouri River and Mandan. Richardton-Taylor Raiders and Hebron Bearcats form the Richardton-Taylor/Hebron Raiders. And lastly, before reaching the river, is New Salem. Or New Salem-Almont. Though that seems to depend on the situation. The school calls themselves the New Salem Holsteins, and the building says New Salem High School, however in many situations they’re called New Salem-Almont. Which is the name of the School District. In 2008, the Sims School District that encompassed Almont consolidated with New Salem, forming the current district and single high school. The building name, though, not being updated. That same naming irregularity happens often in Pennsylvania. Where the name ‘Area’ gets added or deleted from a school’s name seemingly at random. Sometimes the school has Area in the name, and sometimes it’s the district. Sometimes both. Sometimes they include it, sometimes they don’t. Schools like Moon Area, Derry Area, or BVA regularly proclaim their ‘Area’ demarcation, while others, even in the name, just outright ignore it.

Despite the name, no one can deny their presence. The Holsteins of New Salem and Almont are the defending state champions of 9-man football and are looking for a sequel.

East of the river, there’s four more schools. All co-ops. Some can get rather clunky in names. Kidder County Public School, the Wolves, are now the lone school remaining from their co-op between Steele-Dawson and Tappen. Tappen closed in 2018, and the school in Steele, right along I-94, now hosts the county’s athletics as the lone survivor of consolidation.

South of Steele, is the fun co-op of the Napoleon Imperials and the Gackle-Streeter Orioles. Though, the Gackle-Streeter side exists only in memory as the entire athletic department co-ops with Napoleon and assumes the Imperials name. To the point that, in many contexts, the team is just called Napoleon or even Napoleon/G-S. Relegating one of the funner school names to an after thought.

To the far southeast of the Region 4 squads is South Border. South Border is a co-op between Ashley and Wishek High Schools and play their home games between both home sites. A rare occcurence among some co-ops where in many cases one stadium becomes the default ‘home’ for various reasons. The nickname Mustangs, however, is lifted from Ashley’s High School moniker. Bypassing the Wishek Badgers nickname entirely. In an interesting bit of trivia, the original co-op was Wishek/Lehr/Ashley Badgers and then Wishek/Ashley Badgers until 2006 while the name flipped and the South Border location was created for 2007.

And lastly, you have Linton/Hazleton-Moffitt-Braddock/Strasburg-Zeeland. The Lions. The latest update to the co-op was in 2020 when Strasburg and Zeeland were included into it. Prior to that, Hazleton Tigers joined the Linton Lions the consolidated HMB joined. Creating one of the longest co-op names. Though, unlike previous changes, the jerseys still read “Linton-HMB” on the backs.

For all the towns, and all the schools involved, it’s a credit to all involved that Saturday’s five-game slate went off without a hitch.

The games were scheduled to start at 10am with games starting every 150 minutes until 8pm for the final kickoff. The grass fields to the east of the main football stadium would be utilized for warm-ups until the previous game was cleared from the turf. The multiple locker room facilities made the overlap possible.

#4 New Salem v. Kidder County

The games started with the defending champs, New Salem Holsteins, against Kidder County, the 2019 state champions.

New Salem opened with a 29 yard TD run by Alex Brandt and a 26 yard TD run by Brock Norton to take a comfortable, though slim, 14-0 lead in the first half. Kidder County’s Bryce Larson would answer with a 6-yard TD run to close the gap to 14-6 midway through the second quarter.

But the third quarter would belong to the Holsteins. Brock Norton would get another touchdown, while Ethan Maier would return a fumble for another score. Bryce Larson would cut the lead with a 2 yard run, but it wasn’t enough for the Wolves. Alex Brandt would get a 7-yard score while Wyatt Kuhn would go 48 yards on a catch and run to extend the Holsteins stranglehold on the game, to 42-12. In the waning moments, Jayden MacInnis would recover a fumbled ball in the endzone for a Kidder County touchdown. Giving New Salem the 42-18 victory to open the title defense.

#5 Hettinger County v. Napoleon/Gackle-Streeter

Tristan Schaffer would start the scoring for the Imperials on a 10 yard QB keeper. Adding two with a pass to Mason Weigel early in the first quarter. In the second quarter, the Huskies would trim the lead to 8-6 on a 46 yard TD pass to Jaren Rafferty who would take the short pass the distance. The two-point try would be an incomplete pass. In the fourth quarter, Trevor Moos would go 70 yards on the ground to give the Imperials some breathing room, 14-6. With 2:32 left in the game, Mark Fitterer would snag a 25 yard catch in the endzone for six. But the two point pass attempt would be broken up. The Imperials would hang on to win, 14-12 in a nailbiter.

#6 Linton/HMB/SZ v. Hettinger/Scranton

Early on, the game trended toward the Nighthawks. Maddox Pierce would go 50 yards on the ground for the lead, 6-0 with 8:16 left in the first quarter. Later in the frame, Chason Schumacher would sneak in from a yard out to put the Nighthawks up 12-0. In the third quarter, Linton got the ball moving and made a dent on the scoreboard. Justin Tschosik would get a TD run, to halve the lead.

In the fourth quarter, Larry Umber would snag a game-tying 1 yard TD catch and take the lead after catching the conversion attempt for two. And Justin Tschosik would end the game’s scoring on a short run up the gut to salt the 12 point comeback away, 20-12.

#7 South Border v. Beach

This game got out of hand in a hurry. South Border’s stellar misdirection plays behind center left the defense lunging for phantom ball carriers. Early on, South Border was up 15-0 thanks to a ‘push the pile’ plunge to start the game and a 16 yard run by Conner Kosiak. Later, Trevor Schmidt and Levi Bucholz would add first quarter scores. Schmidt on a 7 yard catch and Bucholz running a breakaway 65 yard scamper.

In the second quarter, Joshua Hasse would add another score on a 1-yard plunge. And Berkley Frantz would run one in from twelve yards out. A late scoring opportunity for Beach would come up short after several plays stopped short of the goal as the second quarter wound down.

In the third quarter, Beach would finally crack the scoreboard, o n a 4 yard run by Kolby Sperry. Later, Andrew Trask would snag a 22 yard pass for a second score. Closing out the game, Joshua “Big House” Hasse rumbles in again from a yard out. South Border would win, 49-12.

#8 Richardton-Taylor/Hebron v. Grant County/Flasher

Javin Friesz would start the scoring on a 15 yard TD run to the right side. While Trey Heid would run in the conversion to put the Storm up, 8-0 just 4:36 into the game. Friesz would add to his scoreline, with a 12 yard TD run late in the second quarter. Adding the conversion on his own. After a quick interception, Friesz wasn’t done, as he ran 6 yards with 3.1 seconds left to nab his third touchdown of the game. His pass to Zach Bonogofsky was good for two. Giving the Grant County/Flasher squad a comfortable, 24-0 halftime lead.

In the third quarter, Friesz would add a 7-yard touchdown pass, while throwing incomplete for the conversion, to go up, 30-0 with 8:51 left in the third quarter. Trey Heid would add a 71 yard TD run as the third quarter expires. On the last play of the contest, Richardton-Taylor/Hebron would score one final touchdown. And a two-point conversion. Though, I regretfully did not get the numbers on either play. Grant County/Flasher would win, 36-8 to close out the day’s contests.

Overall, I had a great time on the field at Mandan. I was the only photographer there all five games. And, as it turned out, the only live twitter updater for the games. Which pushed me to extend my plan from fully covering two of the five and part of the other three, into staying on the field for all five. As much as I could. I did the best job I could, only taking an extended halftime break in the third game, and sitting out most of the second half in the final game. Though getting photos of all the scores. Until the last game. I was out of position and missed a late score.

I did get to meet Coach Zier from Beach, again. It was in 2020 during the covid ‘helmet championships’ that dominated the twittersphere for something to do, that I came across the Beach HC, Mike Zier. Who invited me to come to a game after I said it was on my bucket list.

Little did I know that with covid completely disrupting the sports world that fall, that my usual early season games would fall apart. And I’d start my season in Utah and then travel to North Dakota for the second weekend. And get that opportunity. And very few times does a stadium experience, even during covid, live up to the expectations.

So, Beach quickly became my favorite team in North Dakota. Though close seconds to Bowman County, who I had seen the year prior. Though for clarity, I only call a team a ‘favorite’ if I’ve actually seen them play. So, it does limit the field a bit.

After the game, I had a long drive east to Fargo where I was staying.And getting my rental returned on Sunday. Though I am always leery of returning rentals to a closed location. As they didn’t have Sunday drop-off. Since Fargo was work related, I considered the rental being returned as the end of my football extravaganza.

But first, Sushi.

Not exactly an area of the country known for fresh ocean fish. But, it was worth the $28 or so it cost plus tip. They were quick, too. Lot faster than Sushi Bomb in Robinson Twp has been when I’ve gone there. Though, this place had a much slower lunch rush on a Sunday.


In all, I saw 8 games over three days. One game entirely unplanned. Though I didn’t miss a minute of any game. Only made possible by the early finish at Center on Friday evening.

Total driving was 838 miles to and from Fargo, North Dakota. Thanks to the deal from Enterprise, I only spent $80 on gas. As I could return it with an empty tank. And I did do some joyriding around Fargo to get it damn near E. Food totaled $80.35. The biggest purchase being the aforementioned Sushi at Izumi in Fargo. The other ‘big meal’ was at Pizza Ranch in Wahpeton. Fast food, a brief trip to walmart, and two trips to Dollar General for Milo’s rounded out the bulk of the cost. I had a burger at the game in Wilmot, South Dakota. And a Burger and Gatorade in Center. On Saturday, for the entire five games, my meal consisted of some water, courtesy of the Beach Buccaneers and Coach Zier. Much appreciated. Even with the breeze, the heat made the thought of eating completely unappealing. I did have some sweet tea, mango, and some other fruit from the Walmart not far from the stadium after the game.

For Tickets & Miscellaneous, I spent $1 for the Wilmot Enterprise newspaper. Which only showed a small, one paragraph (if you can call it that) blurb about the upcoming game that night. I spent $18.50 on miscellaneous trip-related expenses. A couple notebooks, some paper towels and wet wipes. Nothing too extravagant. The lone, major expense was $276.48 for the four day rental. Which was upgraded free to the GMC Canyon. Made gas prices more costly, but the free tank of gas offset that. But, it wasn’t really a football expense. Though, I’ll note it here. And the hotel in New Salem was free. While my stay in Fargo was work related. So, overall it’s a wash.

Total expenses was $179.85 for the football games.

I added twelve new teams to my list. Reaching 1,505 different teams. And four new stadiums. Getting to 472 total. And reaching game #1382 with the Richardton-Taylor/Hebron v. Grant County/Flasher game Saturday.

2023 Statistics

8 Games
16 Teams
4 Stadiums
2 States

12 New Teams
4 New Stadiums

1,505 different teams
472 different stadiums

1,382 total games


2023 HSF Wk 0 South Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 South Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 South Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 South Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 Roadtrippin

2023 HSF Wk 0 North Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 North Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 North Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 North Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 North Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 North Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 North Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 North Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 North Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 North Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 North Dakota

2023 HSF Wk 0 North Dakota


Next week, I planned, and eventually successed, at returning to Ocean City, New Jersey for twelve Battle at the Beach games.

For photos from this weekend, click HERE.

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

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