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North Dakota Sports

NDAPSSA announces 2019-20 high school awards

By Greg DeVillers
Grand Forks Herald

GRAND FORKS — Langdon-Edmore-Munich won both the volleyball and girls basketball Class B state championships during the 2019-20 high school year. On both teams, Callie Ronningen was the player who led the Cardinals to the titles.
Ronningen has been selected as the North Dakota female athlete of the year in the COVID-19 pandemic-shortened 2019-20 school year. The award is given out annually by the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
Ronningen paced the undefeated (27-0) L-E-M basketball team with averages of 18.1 points, 3.8 assists and 3.6 steals and was second on the team with 5.7 rebounds a game. She was a repeat first-team all-state selection and was named Class B senior girls basketball player of the year as well as being a Miss Basketball finalist.
Ronningen led the 38-3-2 L-E-M volleyball team in kills (441), digs (547) and blocks (67, tied for first). She was named to the Class B all-state team for the third consecutive season.
“This was the first time a Class B school has won the state girls basketball and volleyball championships in the same school year,” Cardinals basketball coach Rob Scherr said. “Callie was the leader on both those teams. She’s a special athlete, always putting team first. Sometimes we had to get on her to be more aggressive and take charge.”
Ronningen finished her high school career with more than 2,000 points and 1,000 rebounds in basketball and more than 2,000 kills and 2,000 digs in volleyball.
“That tells you what kind of all-around athlete Callie is,” Scherr said. “She’s a coach’s dream.”
Other finalists: Jes Mertens, Devils Lake, and Reile Payne, Fargo Shanley.
Other high school award winners selected by the NDAPSSA are:
Female team
Devils Lake girls basketball: The Firebirds graduated three starters from the team that was runner-up in the 2019 Class A state tournament. Rebuilding went well.
Devils Lake opened the season with 22 straight wins before dropping a 79-70 decision to Fargo Davies in the East Region tournament semifinals. The Firebirds bounced back, winning a loser-out state-qualifier game, then won two straight at the Class A state tournament.
After the semifinals, however, the season was canceled to end a Devils Lake-Fargo Shanley state championship matchup. Devils Lake was 2-0 against the Deacons this season. The Firebirds finished 25-1.
First team all-stater Jes Mertens paced a balanced lineup that also included all-East Region selections Jailyn Martinson, Ramsey Brown and Abby Johnson. All four averaged between 11 and 12.8 points in the balanced, high-powered offense.
Other finalists: Langdon-Edmore-Munich girls basketball and Langdon-Edmore-Munich volleyball.
Female team coach
Rob Scherr, Langdon-Edmore-Munich basketball, and Justin Klein, Devils Lake basketball: Scherr and Klein were co-winners of the award after their two basketball teams had a combined 52-1 record.
Scherr’s Cardinals were 27-0 relying on balance. Ronningen was not only L-E-M’s lone all-stater; she was the team’s lone pick on the all-Region 4 team. Scherr’s starting five all averaged between 6.5 and 17.7 points.
Scherr also had the Cardinals playing stingy defense. The result was L-E-M almost doubled its opponents in scoring average, getting 64.8 points a game while allowing an average of 33.6.
Klein also had a team built around a balanced offense.
No Firebirds player averaged as many as 13 points a game. Yet Devils Lake had a 72.6 scoring average that was highest among all of the Class A teams in the state.
Devils Lake led Class A girls basketball with a 72.6 scoring average. That was only a 3-point drop in scoring average from a year ago, despite Klein having to work three new starters into the lineup and rebuild his bench.
Other finalist: Rob McIvor, Devils Lake hockey.
Male team
Langdon-Edmore-Munich football: The Cardinals had a second straight undefeated season, repeating as Class A state champions. They did so in dominant style.
Langdon-Edmore-Munich capped a 13-0 season by beating Minot Bishop Ryan 42-14 in the state championship game.
That was a typical margin of victory. In each of its 13 victories, L-E-M had a winning margin of 28 or more points. The Cardinals scored 39 or more points in every game while not allowing more than 16 in any game. They ended the season averaging 47.4 points a game while allowing an average of 7.5.
Langdon-E-M was led by first-team all-staters quarterback Simon Romfo, linebacker Grant Romfo and wide receiver Jackson Delvo and second-team picks Sean Gette and Jesse Fetsch.
Other finalists: Hillsboro-Central Valley football and Bismarck High wrestling.
Male athlete
Cade Feeney, Bismarck Century: The senior is a multisport standout who wasn’t able to play baseball — a sport he’ll play at North Dakota State University — due to the COVID-19 pandemic. But Feeney excelled in football and basketball.
Feeney was named Class AAA senior football player of the year after leading the Patriots to a 12-0 season and the state championship. Feeney accounted for almost 2,000 yards in total offense, as he passed for 1,293 yards and 10 touchdowns while rushing for 703 yards and 13 TDs. He was intercepted only once all season.
The senior was a second team all-state selection in basketball with a strong all-around game. He averaged 21 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 2.5 steals.
In his career, Feeney played on state championship teams in football, baseball and basketball and earned all-state honors in all three sports.
Other finalists: Carson Henningsgard, Hillsboro-Central Valley; Oscar Benson, Hillsboro-Central Valley; Elijah Klein, Mandan; and Bo Belquist, New Rockford-Sheyenne.
Male team coach
Mike LaMoine, Grand Forks Red River hockey: LaMoine was named interim head coach of the Roughriders at the end of October, approximately a month before Red River’s season opener. The Riders finished the season 18-7-2 and state champions.
LaMoine, a former defenseman for the UND hockey team, brought defense to the Riders. Other than a 4-4 tie against East Grand Forks Senior High, Red River held every opponent to less than four goals. Noah Burger and Nick Antonenko, splitting time in goal, had a combined 1.7 goals-against average.
Red River took the No. 4 seed into the East Region tournament. LaMoine’s stingy defense went 6-0 in the postseason, with its 4-3 win against Grand Forks Central in the state semifinals the most goals allowed in those six games.
Eleven teams had at least one all-state pick. Red River had no all-staters, but it had a state title under LaMoine.
Other finalists: Rick Smith, Four Winds-Minnewaukan basketball, and Jordan Wilhelm, Bismarck High basketball.

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North Dakota Sports

NDAPSSA announces 2019-20 college awards

FARGO — A football dynasty and its new quarterback, a hockey coach, an NAIA volleyball team and its coach and a junior college basketball player received college year-end awards from the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association.
North Dakota State’s football team, which has won eight of the last nine Football Championship Subdivision titles, was named the college male team of the year while its first-year quarterback Trey Lance was named college male athlete of the year. Brad Berry, who guided the University of North Dakota men’s hockey team to a No. 1 ranking, was named the college male coach of the year.
The University of Jamestown volleyball team, which reached the semifinals of the NAIA national tournament, was named the college female team of the year while its coach Jon Hegerle was named the college female coach of the year. Amber Stevahn, a basketball player from Bismarck State College, was named the college female athlete of the year.
College male team: NDSU football
The Bison capped a perfect season and became the first college football team to go 16-0 since the Yale Bulldogs in 1894. NDSU has won 37 consecutive games and eight of the past nine FCS championships, including the past three.
James Hendricks intercepted a pass near the goal line in the final seconds to seal a 28-20 victory against James Madison for the FCS championship last January before 17,866 fans at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
NDSU has a 128-8 record over the past nine seasons. The Bison are the sixth FCS team to go undefeated en route to a national title. They also had perfect seasons in 2013 and 2018. The eight national titles are also an FCS record. Georgia Southern has the second most FCS crowns with six.
College male athlete: Trey Lance
Lance, a standout quarterback from Marshall, Minn., became the first freshman to win the Walter Payton Award — the Football Championship Subdivision equivalent of the Heisman Trophy.
Lance, who was offered a scholarship to play quarterback at Boise State, started all 16 games in leading the Bison to its eighth national title in the last nine years. Lance, who became the first Bison player to win the Payton Award, also won the FCS Jerry Rice Award as the top freshman. He was also the first freshman voted the Missouri Valley Football Conference offensive player of the year.
Lance set the NCAA all-divisions record for most passing attempts in a complete season (287) without an interception. He finished the year with a school-record 288 career consecutive passing attempts without an interception. He threw for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns and led the Bison in rushing with 1,100 yards and 14 touchdowns.
College male coach: Brad Berry
Brad Berry has been head coach at UND for five years. In that short time, he has already led the program to two of its four best seasons in the 74 years of UND hockey.
The first one resulted in the 2016 NCAA national championship. This year, UND didn’t get the chance. But Berry, whose team won the National Collegiate Hockey Conference’s Penrose Cup and held the No. 1 spot in the Pairwise Rankings when the season came to an abrupt end due to the coronavirus outbreak, has been recognized with the country’s top coaching honor.
Berry became UND’s first to win the Spencer Penrose Award as the national coach of the year as decided by the American Hockey Coaches Association since Dean Blais won it in 2001, which was Berry’s first year as a UND assistant coach.
College female team: Jamestown volleyball
The University of Jamestown 2019 volleyball season ended on Dec. 7 with a 3-1 loss to eventual NAIA national champion Marian University (Ind.) in the NAIA national semifinals at the Tyson Events Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
The Jimmies, who finished the season with a 33-6 record, were ranked No. 4 in the NAIA postseason coaches Top 25 Poll – the highest final ranking achieved in the program’s 44-year history. Jamestown finished the 2017 season ranked No. 15 in the postseason poll, which had been the best final ranking prior to this season.
One-third (11 of 33) of Jamestown’s wins came against opponents ranked in the NAIA Top 25. The Jimmies beat sixth-ranked Southern Oregon in the fourth game of the season, then in perhaps its signature win of 2019, defeated then-No. 2 ranked Northwestern (Iowa) in the quarterfinals of the NAIA National Tournament.
Britta Knudson and Isabell Wedell were named NAIA All-Americans. Knudson was a second-team selection and Wedell was an honorable mention selection.
College female athlete:
Amber Stevahn
Stevahn was one of only 10 players to earn All-American honors at the National Junior College Athletic Association level during her sophomore season at Bismarck State College.
The 2018 Bismarck Shiloh Christian High School graduate averaged 25.1 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 2.7 steals per game in leading the Mystics to a 24-7 record. The 6-foot Stevahn amassed 1,519 points, 453 rebounds, 176 assists and 158 steals in her two-year career at BCS.
Stevahn, who will play at NCAA Division II Minot State next season in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference, led NJCAA Division I in scoring as a freshman (24.7). She ranked second this past season (25.1 ppg).
College female coach:
Jon Hegerle
Hegerle, who has a 270-127 record in 11 seasons as the University of Jamestown women’s volleyball coach, led the Jimmies to a program-record 33-match victories in 2019 — becoming the first Jamestown sports program to compete in an NAIA championship semifinal.
His Jamestown teams have never won less than 20 matches in a season. The Jimmies won the 2019 Great Plains Athletic Conference championship on their home court on Nov. 16, defeating College of Saint Mary (Neb.) 3-0 at Harold Newman Arena, marking the first conference championship won inside the $16 million facility opened in 2017.

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North Dakota Sports

A rare fake punt kick-started Bison FCS national title run in Frisco

FARGO — To a lot of players and fans it probably seems like a few years ago when North Dakota State descended on Frisco, Texas, for its first appearance in the NCAA Division I FCS national title game. The reality is that game against Sam Houston State was nine seasons ago. It was a tight game in which the Bison trailed in the second half and the play that may have kicked off the unprecedented run of championships came from an unexpected source.
A punter, of all players.
A fake punt from Matt Voigtlander was the springboard play in NDSU’s 17-6 win over Sam Houston State in the 2011 Football Championship Subdivision title game. The Bison will be gunning for their eighth crown in nine years on Jan. 11 when they face James Madison at Toyota Stadium.
It was a play made by a career running back-turned-punter for his final season of football.
“Obviously it was a unique position change,” Voigtlander said Tuesday, Dec. 31, “and to have that be my role that year and to be part of that in the last game I ever played is certainly special and cool to be a part of.”
The timing of the fake was impeccable.
From the beginning of the second quarter until the first series of the third quarter, the Bison offense had an interception after two plays followed by three straight three-and-outs. Nothing seemed to be working.
NDSU got six yards on the first play of the third quarter, but running back Sam Ojuri was stuffed for no gain on second down-and-4. ESPN analyst David Diaz-Infante sensed the drag in the NDSU offense on third-and-4 on the first series of the third quarter as he said it was a “big third down for the Bison.”
“And one of the most critical series of the game is the first series in the second half. Can you change the momentum of the game?” Diaz-Infante said.
The answer was yes, only not on that third down play. As it was, a pressured Brock Jensen, a sophomore quarterback, threw high over the middle to an open Ryan Smith, a sophomore receiver. NDSU faced fourth down.
So the Bison sent in the punt unit. That’s where assistant coach Tim Polasek came into the picture.
“That was a pretty cool coaching deal; it happened exactly how we penciled it in,” Voigtlander said.
The cool deal came as a result of film study by Polasek, who worked with the punt unit.
“It was early on in the process,” Polasek said. “I just remember going to coach (Craig) Bohl and saying I think we’ve got something here. We repped it quite a bit.”
The Thursday before the title game, Bohl reiterated to Polasek about having the fake ready. There were two elements to the play, Polasek said. If Sam Houston gave NDSU the defensive look the Bison wanted, it was a go. If not, a shout of the color “black” was to call off the play.
“It was an easy shutdown and we would punt the ball,” Polasek said. “Coach Bohl is not a big ‘fake’ guy.”
Before the play, Bohl and Polasek had a quick conversation. Bohl said “it’s a go,” Polasek said.
It looked like any other punt. Voigtlander took the snap from long snapper Michael Murphy, but at the blink of an eye took off to his left. Sam Houston rushed two players from the opposite side toward Voigtlander, but nobody was on the other.
Lineman Anthony LaVoy was in front of Voigtlander and it was so open that even LaVoy had a tough time figuring out who to block.
“(Polasek) said if they line up the same way as they did on film, no way this doesn’t work,” Voigtlander said.
It worked to the tune of 27 yards and a first down.
On the next play, running back D.J. McNorton took a middle screen pass from Jensen with left tackle Billy Turner directly in front of him. It was a play that was a staple of the Bison attack in 2010, but McNorton said he didn’t think they ran it all that often in 2011.
He said the play-call from offensive coordinator Brent Vigen, now the offensive coordinator at Wyoming, was “brilliant.”
“Vigen dialed it up right after a huge play,” McNorton said. “They were scrambling. It was a play-action type of look, got the ball in the middle and when I turned there was nothing but green grass and a lot of guys blocking for me.”
A Sam Houston defender did not get a hand on McNorton until the 2-yard line and by then it was much too late. The 39-yard touchdown pass gave the Bison a 10-6 lead they would not surrender.
It was a play that was set up by the fake. Ironically, NDSU hasn’t run a fake punt since.
“We hadn’t run a fake all year and a lot of us were kind of waiting when they were going to do it,” McNorton said. “I had no clue we were running it. No clue, it was almost like you forgot about it. But Voigt was a running back and a really good running back.”
That fake gave Voigtlander 646 career rushing yards, with the most (265) coming in his redshirt freshman season. But an increased talent pool at running back with McNorton and Ojuri and the graduation of punter John Prelvitz from the year before created an opening at the position.
McNorton is a teacher and coach at his alma mater Channelview High School in Houston. Voigtlander, who works for a small financial planning firm in Plymouth, Minn., just had his third child on Tuesday.
Those two on back-to-back plays helped kick-start Bison history.
“You look back on how some things impacted the whole streak,” said Polasek, now the offensive line coach at Iowa. “That was one of them.”

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North Dakota Sports

NDSU Dining Center went above and beyond during blizzard

By Jeff Kolpack
Forum News Service

FARGO — Nineteenth Avenue North just in front of Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome was closed for more than a day because of the weekend blizzard that hit the Red River Valley. That didn’t mean it was a vacation storm day for the North Dakota State football team.
The Bison did what they could with the Jan. 11 Division I Football Championship Subdivision national title game against James Madison not that far away. That included keeping players in training well fed.
Perhaps the most valuable player of the weekend? If you ask NDSU head coach Matt Entz, it would be the NDSU Dining Center. It did not miss prepping for a meal.
“We have a great team,” said Katie Tarter, the NDSU director of dining. “They’re amazing. Unbelievable.”
Her team includes an array of people and entities, such as the NDSU facilities department that cleared roads and parking lots for the dining staff. A blizzard plan includes the NDSU Department of Residence Life, which provides on-campus rooms for workers who live too far from campus.
In this case, it included Jim Kramer, NDSU’s associate athletic director for athletic performance and Roxanne England, associate director for the dining center. Those two were in constant communication in regards to the football team and the dining center, Tarter said.
“Those two do all the back-and-forth conversations with times and things like that,” Tarter said. “The football team works with us. Based on the weather, they made adjustments.”
That included a continental breakfast for the players on Monday, so the dining staff didn’t have to come in early and prepare hot food items. The main day meal on Monday, then, was more of a brunch before the Bison practiced Monday afternoon.
“When you’re feeding a smaller group, like the football team now, you don’t need as many staff,” Tarter said. “The football team worries about our staff, too, to make sure we’re safe as well.”
For Entz, that meant adjusting the practice schedule on Monday to give the campus and city workers time to clear the roads. NDSU cut its Sunday schedule to a minimum. It canceled a weightlifting session on Monday morning, but Entz said they’ll make that up later.
“We’re trying to do the best we can to stay active,” Entz said.
There are players staying in on-campus dormitories and players who live off campus. To help with transportation, Entz said players with four-wheel drive vehicles picked up other players.
Nobody missed a minute of anything.
“What you don’t want is a couple of days of no practice, then you do feel like you’re behind,” Entz said. “The players did a great job of helping get the other guys here.”
For the true freshmen, especially for the ones from out of state, the blizzard was probably a first-time experience. For the veteran players, it’s just part of Bison football.
“A lot of returning players understand this is the way Mother Nature can be in Fargo, North Dakota,” Entz said. “You take the good with the bad. Regardless, we need to get ready and we need to have every opportunity we can.”
That includes food for athletes who depend on it to maintain strength and speed.
“The people in the dining center — their commitment to not only North Dakota State football but NDSU athletics is off the charts,” Entz said.

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North Dakota Sports

Bison offense looking to rebound from Illinois State performance

FARGO — Sixty minutes of Division I FCS playoff football. And no touchdowns. That’s what the North Dakota State offense took away from last weekend’s 9-3 victory over Illinois State and it’s something that didn’t go unnoticed this week as the Bison prepared for Saturday’s semifinal clash with Montana State in the Fargodome.
Most of the credit was given to the Redbirds for a blitzing scheme that appeared to confuse the Bison.
“I think we have to focus more on preparing schematically during the week,” said Bison left tackle Dillon Radunz.
That was probably in reference to an anticipation that the Bobcats will do the same thing against the Bison at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. Radunz called the ISU blitz package “double smoke off the edges.”
“We had schematically prepared for it but it was almost the luck of the draw,” Radunz said. “They prepared well and did really well so give their defense credit. Every single play we ran, they knew how to counter it and we have to perform better.”
Radunz said Missouri State threw a similar scheme at the Bison, a game in which the NDSU offense was OK at best in a 22-0 win in mid-October.
“We have to run the ball better and pick up these blitzes better,” Radunz said. “Hopefully this week we’ll learn how to do that and have a better game plan on Saturday.”
The Bison twice got inside the ISU 10-yard line only to settle for field goals.
“We know we have to be better but at the same time we have to forget about the last game,” said Bison running back Ty Brooks. “It’s frustrating when you can’t score, especially with the playmakers we have on the field. But hats off to Illinois State, they did a good job of playing us, scheming us up and attacking us with the right stuff at the right time.”
Part of the remedy for the Bobcats is to learn from what Illinois State did, Brooks said. But also don’t lament on the game and move forward.
“You don’t want to think about it too much,” Brooks said. “Sunday was the last day I thought about it. I don’t know what (MSU) is going to do, but we’ll be ready.”
MSU coach: Dome experience a plus
It will be the second straight year Montana State will travel to the Fargodome and Bobcats head coach Jeff Choate thinks that could help his team. There was plenty to learn from after the Bison stuck a 52-10 loss on MSU in last year’s FCS second round.
“I think it really matters because it’s a unique environment,” Choate said. “It’s loud, very packed. It’s different and having been there does help. We’ve been there when it’s loud and rowdy and I think that helps. I don’t think it’s one of those things where we’ll be intimidated; we’ve been there and seen it. We didn’t compete well but it helps to have a chance to have seen it.”
Unlike last year, MSU will not do a walk-through practice Friday at the dome. Instead, the Bobcats will take their customary day off on Thursday, practice on Friday in Bozeman and fly to Fargo.
“We’re not going to go to the venue because we’ve been there,” Choate said earlier this week. “We’ll do everything here and go compete.”
Choate said he’s not a fan of “revenge” being a motivator, mainly because the game last year was, well, last year.
“You’re not the team you were yesterday let alone a year ago,” Choate said. “It doesn’t matter for them and it doesn’t matter for us. We have to avoid the PTSD from our traumatic experience at the Fargodome but our guys have played a ton of football since then and played to a higher degree. We’re more competitive and we’re more well rounded. What happened last year, you can throw it out the window.”
Wentz tapes
message for fans
It appeared NDSU put some extra marketing effort into the semifinal game this week. That included getting former Bison quarterback Carson Wentz into the mix, although it’s not certain if Wentz or his sponsor Scheels initiated the effort. Whatever the case, Wentz posted a video on his personal Twitter account this week.
“Hey everyone, I’m calling Bison Nation, we’re on the road to another national championship and it starts right here,” he said. “Right now, with you. So stand up and be loud and be proud and let’s go get another one.”
Wentz did it on a week when his Philadelphia Eagles are preparing for perhaps their biggest game of the season Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys. It’s a grudge match that will determine the winner of the NFC East title and a playoff berth.
Luepke hoping to return
Redshirt freshman Hunter Luepke is not be the starting fullback, but the Bison offense may have missed his presence last weekend against Illinois State. Luepke did not play after suffering a sprained ankle in the second round win over Nicholls State (La.).
The 6-foot-1, 249-pound Luepke practiced this week and he said was hopeful to play against Montana State.
“I’m good now,” Luepke said earlier this week.
Senior Garrett Malstrom, who has been battling an injured knee, is the starting fullback. But the Bison coaches have steadily used Luepke in more situations as the season has progressed.
“I was just looking to find my role on the team this year and whatever that is I’ll do it,” Luepke said. “The coaches put more and more on my table each week and I’m loving it right now. Whatever the coaches want me to do, I’m confident in what my skills are and how they’ve trained me.”
More national
honors for Bison
It was another good week for NDSU in the awards department. Radunz and defensive end Derrek Tuszka were named to the Associated Press All-American first team headlining five Bison selections for three teams.
Quarterback Trey Lance and offensive guard Zack Johnson were named to the second team. Linebacker Jabril Cox was a third-team pick.
Radunz and Lance were named to the FCS Athletic Directors Association All-American team. It’s a different award in that it recognizes the top individual at 11 different positions. Radunz, for instance, was named the top offensive lineman in the FCS, the seventh straight year NDSU has had the top offensive lineman.
Lance was the top quarterback and Pete Guerriero of Monmouth was the top running back.

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North Dakota Sports

Usual Friday commencement-football game routine for Bison players different this year

FARGO — Before 12 North Dakota State players put on their football helmets this weekend, they will don another cap that also comes with a gown. They will be walking the stage at winter graduation on Friday afternoon to receive their degree.
It’s nothing unusual at this time of the year for NDSU.
“We actually have a routine and it’s crazy to say it’s a semifinal week and it’s routine,” said senior safety James Hendricks. “But we’re used to it and we’re ready to do another one.”
There is one adjustment in the routine this week. NDSU’s semifinal clash with Montana State for the right to go to the FCS national championship game is on Saturday. The last time that happened was in 2011 when the Bison defeated Georgia Southern 35-7.
ESPN changed its usual format at this time of the year and on Friday night will air an NBA game on the main network and the Frisco Bowl between Utah State and Kent State at Toyota Stadium on ESPN2. On Saturday, the Bison and Bobcats will be on ESPN2 at 1 p.m. with the other semifinal game, Weber State at James Madison at 5:30 p.m., to be aired on ESPNU.
From 2012 until last year, every Bison FCS semifinal game was played on Friday night at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
It means the players that are graduating won’t be receiving their diploma on a Friday afternoon and then immediately have to turn into game mode.
“I think it’s going to be a little more normal to be honest,” Hendricks said. “It might be better. But Friday night was always cool, the fans were crazy and the atmosphere was insane. Maybe this will be a better routine.”
NDSU is 8-1 in semifinal games since that first Georgia Southern game. The hiccup was in 2016 when James Madison stuck a 27-17 loss on the Bison, a year in which the Dukes went on to win the national title.
Take that Friday night game away and the Bison had their way with the other six by outscoring their opponents by an average of 40.3-13.0.
Still, it’s not as if time won’t be of the essence on Friday for the Bison graduates. The ceremony is at 2 p.m. and the players won’t have much time until they have to turn to football with meetings and a walkthrough practice.
“So hopefully we’ll get in and out of there in a timely manner because we have a full afternoon,” said senior tight end Ben Ellefson. “There are a lot of distractions but focusing on the things that we can control is pretty important.”
Hendricks is majoring in business management. Ellefson was the recipient of the NCAA Elite 90 Award at last year’s national title game that goes to the player with the highest cumulative GPA of the two participating teams.
Friday’s ceremony isn’t necessarily for a senior in his last year of eligibility, either. Long snapper Ross Kennelly, a junior, graduated last summer in sport management but had to wait until Friday to go through a ceremony.
“It’s fortunate that the people at records and registration let me walk,” Kennelly said. “It’s important to me because of the history and past years of guys being able to walk and play a football game. There are not many college football players that are able to do that with teammates.”
Kennelly is currently enrolled in NDSU’s MBA program. His last final was Thursday but that could last into Friday morning.
“Commencement will be fun and everything but I’ll be in that mode for the game by then,” he said. “We’re in the playoffs and you have to survive and advance and that’s what we’ll focus on.”

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North Dakota Sports

UND lands two St. Cloud State players

GRAND FORKS — In a matter of six days, Devon Krzanowski and Adam Stage went from veteran members of NCAA Division II St. Cloud State to verbal commitments to Division I University of North Dakota.
Krzanowski, an inside linebacker with two years of eligibility remaining, and Stage, a kicker with one year left, announced verbals to the Fighting Hawks early this week after a Saturday recruiting visit to Grand Forks.
The commitments come on the heels of last Tuesday’s decision by St. Cloud State to eliminate its football program.
“The start of last week was really tough, getting the news out of the blue, then trying to figure out what you’re going to do while you’re trying to do homework, go to class, take finals … and that whole time you’re taking calls from coaches all day,” Krzanowski said. “It was pretty tough.”
Krzanowski, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound Fond du Lac, Wis., native, was a second team all-Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference selection in 2019 as a middle linebacker in the Huskies’ 4-3 scheme. He finished the year with 72 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss.
UND will be looking to rebuild at inside linebacker in 2020 after losing seniors Donnell Rodgers and Tyron Vrede.
Stage, of Appleton, Wis., was 11-for-19 on field goals in 2019. He had a long of 45 yards and also 26 touchbacks.
UND has struggled to kick the ball into the end zone the past few seasons on kickoffs. In 2019, UND kickers Brady Leach and Brady Stevens combined for four touchbacks, while UND’s opponents racked up 24 touchbacks against the Hawks.
Stage was second team all-NSIC in 2019. He was honorable mention all-NSIC as a sophomore and first team all-conference as a freshman.
As a rookie, Stage kicked a school record 55-yard field goal against the University of Mary.

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North Dakota Sports

New Bison assistants reveling in playoff run

FARGO — North Dakota State assistant football coach Nick Goeser could probably write a doctorate on what it’s like to work during the Division I FCS playoffs. He’s been a part of all 35 Bison games since the school first qualified for postseason in 2010.
That 2010 run ended in a loss at Eastern Washington in the quarterfinals. Since, there were two different NDSU head coaching generations that led the Bison to seven national titles in eight years. The third generation under head coach Matt Entz has brought a few assistants going through the playoff frazzle in Fargo for the first time.
For a guy like offensive line coach AJ Blazek, the alternative at the FBS level may not have worked out so well. He was part of the staff at Rutgers that was let go after three games this season. Blazek took the Bison job last winter. One of his players at Rutgers, offensive guard Jonah Jackson, transferred to Ohio State as a graduate transfer.
Combined, Blazek’s and Jackson’s teams are 26-0.
“We were together three years. Went through the ups and downs and how do we motivate every week,” Blazek said of coaching Jackson at Rutgers. “He’s on an undefeated run at Ohio State. We chuckle at how your fortunes turn out. It all goes back to being around the right people. I knew the program here, what I was getting involved with and this staff has been a lot of fun.”
Blazek has been through one FCS playoff run before. In 2015 as the offensive line coach at Western Illinois, the Leathernecks defeated Dayton in the opening round before running into No. 2 playoff seed Illinois State, losing 36-19 in Normal, Ill.
Ironically, Blazek will face the Redbirds again in the playoffs when NDSU hosts Illinois State at 11 a.m. Saturday at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. The winner of the quarterfinal game moves on to next weekend’s semifinals.
Defensive coordinator David Braun had a similar FCS playoff run as Blazek did when he was an assistant at Northern Iowa in 2017 and 2018. The Panthers defeated Monmouth in the 2017 first round before losing to South Dakota State in the second round. UNI had the same fate last year beating Lamar (Texas) in the first round before falling to UC Davis 23-16 on the road in the second round.
So it’s the first time getting this far in December with an FCS team for Blazek, Braun, wide receivers coach Noah Pauley and running backs coach Dan Larson. It’s the first time as a coach for linebackers assistant Grant Olson, although he played on the first three NDSU FCS national title teams.
“They’re getting used to the system and the organization, how we move and our culture,” said NDSU senior offensive guard Zack Johnson. “I think they’re going along with it and loving every minute of it.”
Blazek, Braun, Pauley and Larson all trace their coaching roots to Division II or Division III levels. The biggest connection was Winona State (Minn.), where Entz, Blazek and Braun were all assistants.
Braun was the co-defensive coordinator at Winona State from 2011-14. He had to game-plan for one postseason game in 2012 when the Warriors beat Lindenwood (Mo.) in the Mineral Water Bowl. He was at UC Davis before two years at UNI.
“Everything is different in Fargo in a good way,” Braun said. “This is a special place. It’s different for our family, it’s different for our boys and it’s just a different feel around the coaching staff and players. We understand the magnitude of the game, but there’s a process, and it’s something we’re diligent about sticking to. Our guys are excited to play, but it hasn’t changed the way we approach a Tuesday practice.”

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North Dakota Sports

NDSU QB Lance one of four finalists for Walter Payton Award

FARGO — North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance is among the top four finalists announced Monday, Dec. 9, for the STATS FCS Walter Payton Award, which is presented annually to the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
Lance, a 6-foot-3, 221-pound redshirt freshman from Marshall, Minn., will be invited to the Walter Payton Award announcement Friday, Jan. 10, in Frisco, Texas, along with Northern Arizona senior quarterback Case Cookus, Monmouth junior running back Pete Guerriero and Sacramento State junior quarterback Kevin Thomson.
NDSU has had five previous finalists for the Walter Payton Award including quarterback Easton Stick, whose third-place finish in the 2018 vote was the highest by a Bison player.
The only freshman nominated for this year’s Walter Payton Award, Lance is also a finalist for the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award to be announced Wednesday, Dec. 11, recognizing the top freshman player in the FCS. Voting by a national panel of 156 broadcasters, writers and sports information directors was conducted at the end of the regular season.
Lance ranks first in the FCS in passing efficiency (187.8), first in yards per pass attempt (10.03), third in pass completion percentage (.685), and seventh in total points responsible for (216) through 13 games. He was the first freshman to be named Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year and was the fourth to take the league’s Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards.

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North Dakota Sports

UND QB, WR no longer with team

GRAND FORKS — As the University of North Dakota football program turns from the 2019 season ahead to the 2020 campaign, two offensive players have left the team.
Quarterback Noah Grover and wide receiver Izzy Adeoti are longer on the roster.
Adeoti, a 5-foot-10 junior from Plano, Ill., had a role in the offense for parts of his first two seasons on campus before suffering a significant injury in 2018.
In 2017, the true freshman played in 10 games, catching eight balls for 93 yards. In 2018, Adeoti finished with 13 catches and was third on the team with 217 receiving yards.
Adeoti had a career-high 82 receiving yards at No. 5 Sam Houston State in 2018 and scored his first touchdown against Montana later in the year. Adeoti, considered a deep threat for the Fighting Hawks, was injured in an Oct. 21 win at Sacramento State.
After the injury, Adeoti spent most of the 2019 season on the UND scout team.
Grover, a 6-2 junior college transfer from Phoenix, Ariz., ran the UND scout team. His only game action came in UND’s 2019 opener against Drake in which he finished 2-for-2 passing for 11 yards. He also had a 5-yard touchdown run.