FARGO — Fargo North's football team is excited to play on new artificial turf. The Spartans are excited about the new expectations on the program after making the playoffs last season for the first time since 2010.
Something new that was not exciting for the Spartans is quarterback Caleb Fritel being out for the season with a shoulder injury. He had surgery in May. He rushed for more than 536 yards and four touchdowns, while throwing for 739 yards and six touchdowns in the regular season last year.
Fritel is still at every practice basically as another coach. He'll be a captain as well.
"You lose a leader on the field. His presence in the huddle, his calmness under fire, his ability to stay cool and calm and control the football game is a big loss," Fargo North coach Adam Roland said. "It's still a loss and we have had time to come to grips with that loss to still feel pretty comfortable."
University of North Dakota commit Peyton Fisher will step in at quarterback. He rushed for 415 yards and seven touchdowns in the regular season last season. He also had 50 tackles and three interceptions.
When Roland learned about Fritel, he held a meeting with coaches and the captains. He made the decision right away to go to Fisher.
"We had sophomore quarterbacks, who are good athletes and they're going to be good, but they're not ready," Fisher said. "The only choice was to select your best athlete to play that important spot."
Setbacks are nothing new to North. The Spartans started last season 1-4. They were eyeing their ninth straight season of not making the playoffs. They finished the season with four straight wins to get into the postseason.
The Spartans have 12 starters back from last season. Seniors Blayne Anderson and Jeremy McIntyre will take the carries in the backfield with Fisher moving to quarterback.
"They know they have to step up their game," Roland said. "They played a lot last year, but it forces some guys underneath to say, 'I better be ready now because we're one less body in front of me.'"
Leading the defense will be senior linebacker Justin Milliard.
"He's our jack-of-all-trades, but we need other linebackers to fill in around him," Roland said.
The Spartans will play their first two home games at the Fargodome, as North adds turf to its high school stadium. The hope is the field is ready for the Oct. 4 game against Fargo Davies. That's not where the focus is for the Spartans.
"There's excitement around the community and the kids are excited, but we're also seeing it not be a distraction," Roland said. "The guys have been pretty focused. We're going to get on it when we get on it. It's beyond our control."
The focus for Roland is the postseason becoming a regular occurrence at North. The Spartans will be tested early, as two of their first four opponents were in the state semifinals last season.
The season starts with two opponents that played in the state semifinals in the first four weeks.
"Let's not let this be a surprise or a novelty, let's make this be an expectation," Roland said of making the playoffs. "We need it to be an expectation. we want to put ourselves in control earlier in the seasons. Let's not wait until the end of the season. Let's not sneak in at the end, but let's take a spot."