Home > activity > [rosholt sd school]Traveling Tigers: Tri-State having success with unique football co-op spanning three states

[rosholt sd school]Traveling Tigers: Tri-State having success with unique football co-op spanning three states

Time:2021-10-10 04:55:49


  The bus drivers who carry the Tri-State football players to and from practice log more than 100 miles apiece by the end of the week.

  Tri-State, which plays 9-man football in North Dakota’s Region 1, has 23 players on its roster split among three states — South Dakota, Minnesota and North Dakota. The majority of Tri-State’s team travels by bus to practice.

  The first yellow bus that pulled up to practice Thursday was carrying kids from Rosholt (S.D.). With shoulder pads and helmets in hand, the players from Campbell-Tintah (Minn.) arrived about 10 minutes later.

  The buses sit in the gravel parking lot adjacent to the football field at Fairmount High School until the Tigers finish practice and players are bused back across state lines.

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  <img id="" class="lazyload" data-src="https://www.inforum.com/incoming/6678801-hgaghw-092720.s.ff.tristate.02.jpg/alternates/BASE_LANDSCAPE/092720.s.ff.tristate.02.jpg" alt="Tri-State team members from Rosholt, S.D., arrive by bus for practice in Fairmount, N.D.

  David Samson / The Forum” width=”1140″ height=”” src=”https://www.inforum.com/incoming/6678801-hgaghw-092720.s.ff.tristate.02.jpg/alternates/BASE_LANDSCAPE/092720.s.ff.tristate.02.jpg”/>

  Tri-State team members from Rosholt, S.D., arrive by bus for practice in Fairmount, N.D.

  David Samson / The Forum

  Twelve players on the roster come from Rosholt (S.D.). Six hail from Campbell-Tintah (Minn.). Tri-State plays under the North Dakota High School Activities Association, but the least amount of players (five) are from Fairmount.

  Campbell-Tintah Public School and Fairmount are separated by 13 miles. Rosholt and Fairmount are about 20 miles apart. The football co-op between the three schools was formed in 2007.

  Those who didn’t board a bus Thursday sat on the tailgates of their pickups and laced up their cleats.

  The team practiced under a glaring sun in 70-degree weather Thursday. Tri-State plays on a hybrid field at Fairmount, which is 70 miles south of Fargo. Jutting into one of the sidelines is a baseball diamond, and the outfield and gridiron merge into one.

  Tri-State quarterback Derick Carl unleashes a pass during Tigers football practice in Fairmount, N.D. David Samson / The Forum

  Tri-State quarterback Derick Carl unleashes a pass during Tigers football practice in Fairmount, N.D. David Samson / The Forum

  The rural, grass field was a different setting for head coach Fernando Reese, who is originally from Lexington, Miss. Reese had never heard of 9-man football before he came to North Dakota.

  “(Nine-man) was totally different,” Reese said. “It was something that I had never seen before. I’d never even heard of 9-man. Didn’t even know it existed. Coming from a big 6A school that I graduated high school from to a school where we have 20 kids — we were dressing 60 almost 70 kids just on varsity.”

  Reese is in his second year as head coach at Tri-State. He was asked to come and coach years before he took the job in 2019, but he wasn’t familiar with the type of football, and turned it down right away. Some years later, a lot has changed.

  “(We’re) playing football on a baseball field, basically. It’s different, but you learn how to adjust. The game is the same,” Reese said. “There’s a small-town feel, and that’s always fun.”

  <img id="" class="lazyload" data-src="https://www.inforum.com/incoming/6678804-28hljh-092720.s.ff.tristate.03.jpg/alternates/BASE_LANDSCAPE/092720.s.ff.tristate.03.jpg" alt="Tri-State head football coach Fernando Reese addresses his players before the start of practice in Fairmount, N.D.

  David Samson / The Forum” width=”1140″ height=”” src=”https://www.inforum.com/incoming/6678804-28hljh-092720.s.ff.tristate.03.jpg/alternates/BASE_LANDSCAPE/092720.s.ff.tristate.03.jpg”/>

  Tri-State head football coach Fernando Reese addresses his players before the start of practice in Fairmount, N.D.

  David Samson / The Forum

  The unique logistics of his team doesn’t feel any different for Reese.

  “The towns are really close together and kinda similar, so it feels like the same kids,” Reese said. “I guess it’s just a bunch of kids coming together and playing football.”

  It doesn’t seem to hamper Tri-State’s ability to play as one. The Tigers are off to a 3-2 start to the year and sit at No. 3 in the Region 1 standings.

  Nothing seems out of the ordinary for the players, either.

  Tri-State football team members get dressed for practice in Fairmount, N.D. David Samson / The Forum

  Tri-State football team members get dressed for practice in Fairmount, N.D. David Samson / The Forum

  “It doesn’t really cross our mind,” said Rosholt senior Brandon Gruenwald. “It seems normal to me.”

  What wasn’t normal was fielding a 9-man football team with players from three states during a pandemic season.

  The summer of uncertainty in high school sports with the coronavirus was the only time the differences in geography were apparent for Reese. Each state had different guidelines and restrictions, which were all released at different times.

  “The only thing that became a problem was getting buses from Minnesota to come here and getting the kids to workout this summer when they finally released the North Dakota rules that we could do summer workouts,” Reese said.

  <img id="" class="lazyload" data-src="https://www.inforum.com/incoming/6678854-4qrrgx-092720.s.ff.tristate.09.jpg/alternates/BASE_FREE/092720.s.ff.tristate.09.jpg" alt="Tri-State head football coach Fernando Reese addresses his players before the start of practice in Fairmount, N.D.

  David Samson / The Forum” width=”1140″ height=”-1″ src=”https://www.inforum.com/incoming/6678854-4qrrgx-092720.s.ff.tristate.09.jpg/alternates/BASE_FREE/092720.s.ff.tristate.09.jpg”/>

  Tri-State head football coach Fernando Reese addresses his players before the start of practice in Fairmount, N.D.

  David Samson / The Forum

  Since Tri-State is technically one program and plays in the North Dakota high school league, the team followed North Dakota’s rules of opening up, Reese said. All practices and home games this year are held at Fairmount. In a normal year, Tri-State alternates between Rosholt and Fairmount for practices and games.

  Prior to the Minnesota State High School League’s reversal on Monday, Sept. 21, the six Campbell-Tintah kids were some of the only Minnesotans to have a high school football season this fall. The League’s board of directors initially voted in early August to move football and volleyball to a “flex” spring season, but that was reversed Monday.

  Senior Tate Freeberg, who hails from Campbell, said he was worried about a possibility that Minnesota would make them sit out.

  ”South Dakota came out with their rules first, and we were still waiting on Minnesota,” Reese said. “That kind of scared me of if I was even going to get my Minnesota kids.”

  Carson Rugenstein arrives for Tri-State football practice in Fairmount, N.D. David Samson / The Forum

  Carson Rugenstein arrives for Tri-State football practice in Fairmount, N.D. David Samson / The Forum

  When Reese took over a season ago, it was the Tigers’ first year under the NDHSAA umbrella. Before the 2019-20 season, the three-state co-op competed in the South Dakota High School Activities Association. He came on during the last three games of Tri-State’s final year under the SDHSAA and helped out as the defensive coordinator.

  The teams Tri-State was playing against in South Dakota were bigger schools numbers-wise and kids-wise, Reese said. The Tigers had 22 to 23 kids, while the South Dakota schools were placing almost 40 kids on a 9-man football team.

  Most of the schools ended up getting bumped up to 11-man. The Tigers would’ve had to travel a long way to get in a 9-man game, Reese said.

  “I just look at it as a better opportunity for the kids in other areas that have the smaller numbers that are able to come with us and still play the game of football,” said defensive coordinator Taurean Smith on the co-op.

  <img id="" class="lazyload" data-src="https://www.inforum.com/incoming/6678855-jjjx4p-092720.s.ff.tristate.10.jpg/alternates/BASE_LANDSCAPE/092720.s.ff.tristate.10.jpg" alt="Tri-State assistant football coach Devin Flaa grabs a reception over defender Tate Freeberg during practice in Fairmount, N.D.

  David Samson / The Forum” width=”1140″ height=”” src=”https://www.inforum.com/incoming/6678855-jjjx4p-092720.s.ff.tristate.10.jpg/alternates/BASE_LANDSCAPE/092720.s.ff.tristate.10.jpg”/>

  Tri-State assistant football coach Devin Flaa grabs a reception over defender Tate Freeberg during practice in Fairmount, N.D.

  David Samson / The Forum

  Fairmount, Rosholt and Campbell-Tintah combined all sports — volleyball, softball, girls and boys basketball, baseball, golf, track and cross country — into the Tri-State co-op in 2016-17. The Tigers currently play under the NDHSAA in all sports except track and cross country.

  Reese brought Smith with him to Tri-State when he got the head coaching gig. The two met playing for the Fargo Invaders semi-pro football team. Smith, who is originally from Georgia, also had to adjust to not having two extra guys on the field.

  The Tigers next host LaMoure-Litchville-Marion at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 2.

  <img id="" class="lazyload" data-src="https://www.inforum.com/incoming/6678838-btbclf-092720.s.ff.tristate.07.jpg/alternates/BASE_LANDSCAPE/092720.s.ff.tristate.07.jpg" alt="The Tri-State Tigers 9-man football team is comprised of players from North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota.

  David Samson / The Forum” width=”1140″ height=”” src=”https://www.inforum.com/incoming/6678838-btbclf-092720.s.ff.tristate.07.jpg/alternates/BASE_LANDSCAPE/092720.s.ff.tristate.07.jpg”/>

  The Tri-State Tigers 9-man football team is comprised of players from North Dakota, Minnesota and South Dakota.

  David Samson / The Forum

  Emmerson Taylor gets ready for Tri-State football practice in Fairmount, N.D. David Samson / The Forum

  Emmerson Taylor gets ready for Tri-State football practice in Fairmount, N.D. David Samson / The Forum

  <img id="" class="lazyload" data-src="https://www.inforum.com/incoming/6678856-r7w5l8-092720.s.ff.tristate.11.jpg/alternates/BASE_LANDSCAPE/092720.s.ff.tristate.11.jpg" alt="Tri-State senior Brandon Gruenwald carries the ball during Tigers football practice in Fairmount, N.D.

  David Samson / The Forum” width=”1140″ height=”” src=”https://www.inforum.com/incoming/6678856-r7w5l8-092720.s.ff.tristate.11.jpg/alternates/BASE_LANDSCAPE/092720.s.ff.tristate.11.jpg”/>

  Tri-State senior Brandon Gruenwald carries the ball during Tigers football practice in Fairmount, N.D.

  David Samson / The Forum

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