FARGO — As of now, the Fargo Oak Grove football team has no home-field advantage because the Grovers currently don't have a home field.
"It's a little strange," Oak Grove head coach Melvin Whitney said. "We're used to going right out back and playing."
In April, the football field was submerged in water with the Red River above flood stage. It's still recovering and will not be ready for the home opener for the football season. The Grovers will play Grafton and Bismarck Shiloh Christian at Sid Cichy Stadium at Fargo Shanley High School the first two weeks of the season. They are having practices at Lewis & Clark Elementary School.
"With some expertise help and some great volunteer help we have grass growing again," Oak Grove athletic director Brent Wolf said. "Just need some more time with water and sun."
The hope is the field will be ready by Sept. 13 for Oak Grove's Week 4 matchup against Sargent County.
"End of the day, it's football," Whitney said. "That's what we try to instill in them. Wherever you're playing, it's football. We're treating it as if we're opening the season with three road games. We'll play wherever we have to."
Whitney took over as head coach of the Grovers after a 1-7 season in 2015. The Grovers are 12-13 with one playoff appearance in the three seasons since. They followed a playoff season in 2017 with a 3-5 season last season.
It doesn't get any easier in 2019. Oak Grove entered last season banking on production from quarterback Kaleb Card and playmakers Joseph Akiri, Isaac Olson and Landen Kjos. All of them graduated.
The Grovers have only five seniors on the roster for this season.
"We got a lot of young guys this year," Whitney said. "Upper class isn't that large. We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores that will be counted on to get out there and show what they can do. Some of them got experience last year, but it's now getting those new freshmen in there and seeing what they can do."
Sophomore Josiah Deitz will take over at quarterback.
"It starts with him," Whitney said. "We got him some playing time last year, but we've been seeing some growth in him since."
One of those seniors will anchor the running game in Ryan Donabauer. Alongside Donabauer in the backfield will be sophomore Cody Card.
"The two running backs have been excellent with their leadership," Whitney said. "They've really taken on their roles."
When it comes to leadership, the Grovers will look toward senior tackle and middle linebacker Dylan Sunderland.
"He's our biggest leader," Whitney said.
Sophomore Joseph DeJong has been a surprise for Whitney. He'll play on both lines for the Grovers.
"He's put on some really good weight and gotten a lot stronger," Whitney said. "He's been solid for us."
Although this could be considered a rebuilding year for Oak Grove, Whitney isn't ready to overlook this season for the five seniors on the roster.
"We talk about playing for another all the time," Whitney said. "That's been a big emphasis. You're doing this for your other teammates. We can send these seniors off with a good last year. I think that's been the focus from freshmen to all seniors, is wanting to play for that other guy and make sure they get a good send off."
Aug. 23: vs. Grafton at Fargo Shanley, 7 p.m.
Aug. 30: vs. Shiloh Christian at Fargo Shanley, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: at Lisbon, 7 p.m.
Sept. 13: vs. Sargent County, 7 p.m.
Sept. 20: at Thompson, 7 p.m.
Sept. 27: vs. Hatton-Northwood, 7 p.m.
Oct. 4: at Oakes, 7 p.m.
Oct. 11: vs. Ellendale-Edgeley-Kulm, 7 p.m.
Oct. 19: at Northern Cass, 7 p.m.