FARGO — How is this for special achievements: A college football program that won an unprecedented seventh national championship and earned a trip to the White House, a high school where three teams won state titles and five others placed at state, and a man who has been inducted into five Hall of Fames.
North Dakota State’s football program, Thompson High School athletics and Dick Limke were honored by the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association with its Special Achievement Award.
NDSU’s 2018 football team was arguably one of the program’s best during its incredible run of seven Football Championship Subdivision titles in the last eight years. Loaded with 24 seniors, the Bison rolled to a 15-0 record - outscoring its opponents 41.5-12.6.
No other team in college football has won seven titles in eight years or five in a row. Mount Union (Ohio) won nine NCAA Division II titles in 13 years beginning in 1996 and ending in 2008. Carroll College (Mont.) took the NAIA championship six times in a nine-year period from 2002-10. Alabama won five FBS titles in 10 years.
NDSU surpassed Georgia Southern for the most titles in FCS history - becoming the fifth FCS team to finish an undefeated season as national champions, joining the 2013 Bison team.
Under head coach Chris Klieman, who would later leave NDSU to become the head coach at Kansas State, the Bison were 69-6 with four national titles in five years and 112-8 with seven titles in eight years since he joined the program as an assistant.
“Holy cow, that’s something movies are made of, dreams are made of and books are written about,” Klieman said. “It’s … 112 wins and eight losses and seven national championships? I pinch myself every day.”
Two months after winning a national title, 110 players and more than 40 coaches and athletic department staff got to visit the White House and meet President Donald Trump.
“It’s a little surreal right now,” said Matt Entz, who took over as head coach in January. “This is probably more of a reflection of what our program has done over the course of its history.”
Trump, in front of the Bison football team and an audience that included national television outlets, turned to Easton Stick - after being told about his excellence as NDSU’s quarterback.
"You've got the look, too … Tom Brady," Trump quipped, referring to New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady.
Less than two months after the White House trip, Stick was the 166th pick in the fifth round of the 2019 National Football League Draft. He was picked by the Los Angeles Chargers - becoming the second straight Bison starting quarterback to be drafted by an NFL team. In 2016, Carson Wentz was the No. 2 overall pick of the Philadelphia Eagles.
Stick became the NDSU career-record holder for passing yards with 8,693. He also passed Brock Jensen for the all-time FCS wins record by a quarterback, capping his career with a 49-3 record as a starter.
State tournament trips became commonplace for Thompson High School during the 2018-19 school year.
Thompson teams won Class B state championships in 9-man football, volleyball and boys basketball. Thompson also won region championships in girls basketball (finishing third at state) and baseball (finishing second at state) and qualified for the state softball tournament with a runner-up region finish (finishing fifth at state).
Each of those six teams won at least two games at their respective state tournaments. Each finished 12 or more wins above the .500 mark. Combined, they had a 137-13-1 won-loss-tie record (.913 winning percentage).
In addition, Thompson was runner-up in its region in boys and girls track, finishing second at the Class B girls state track meet, and the Tommies finished eighth in both the girls and boys B state cross country meets.
"It's been a pretty good year, a pretty special year, in Thompson,'' Tommies softball coach Matt Chandler said. "I've told people to enjoy this, that it probably, more than likely, will never happen again. It takes a special group of kids to do this.''
In football, volleyball, basketball, baseball and softball, those athletes include 14 players who won a total of 24 all-region awards and seven players who won a total of nine all-state awards. And that doesn't include Lana Krack and Izzy Shirek, who won three and two races, respectively, at the Class B state track meet as well as the winning girls 3,200-meter relay.
"A lot of things fell into place,'' Thompson athletic director Jason Schwabe said. "You combine a good group athletes who bought into the system with quality coaches and consistency in programs, and you stay healthy for the most part, and good things happen.
"I think we knew the potential was there for our teams to do well. But there were also a lot of other successful programs out there in our regions. To do what we did across the board, you just don't anticipate that. You can't expect everything to fall into place in every sport.’’
In addition to being a standout athlete at Minot State, Dick Limke spent more than 30 years of coaching at the high school and collegiate level in North Dakota.
It explains why Limke is a member in five different Hall of Fames that include: Minot State, North Dakota Amateur Basketball, Manitoba Baseball, North Dakota High School Coaches Association and Magic City Youth Baseball.
His illustrious career all started at Minot State where he was a standout in basketball and baseball from 1959 to 1963. In basketball, he was a member of the 1963 conference champions and currently ranks ninth on the all-time scoring list. In baseball, he was named the top NAIA pitcher in the nation with a 0.54 earned run average. He spent three years in the St. Louis Cardinals organization before returning to North Dakota to start his coaching career.
After coaching fives years at both Center and Tioga, Limke was the head boys basketball coach at Bismarck St. Mary’s from 1972 to 1985 - when he won a state title his first year and took St. Mary’s to three other state tournaments including a 1981 runnerup finish.
Limke became the head men’s basketball coach at Minot State in 1985, a gig that last until 1998. He led Minot State to two NDCAC regular-season titles and two NDCAC tournament titles - guiding the 1994-95 team to the NAIA national tournament.