FARGO — Fargo North head football coach Adam Roland was optimistic heading into this season. The Spartans boast a stabilizing quarterback and seasoned offensive line that gave them reason to be excited.
And it’s clear why.
North (2-1, 2-0 EDC) entered a new chapter in a new division this season, and is making the most of it. The Spartans — playing in North Dakota Class 11A, the second-largest division enrollment wise — opened the season with two straight wins for the first time since the 2017 season.
“We felt like we had a good summer,” Roland said. “We had good two-a-days leading up to the first game.”
In the previous two seasons, North’s only wins came in the last two games of the year. It’s been a different narrative this fall, as the Spartans got rolling early with a 21-0 season-opening victory over Valley City (0-3) and 28-3 win over Fargo South (1-2, 1-1 EDC) in Week 2.
“It was really important for us to get that first win, get our foot in the door,” said senior quarterback Danny Boutain. “And then to go and beat South was really important for us to compound off that confidence and really start the season off right. I think everything is going in a good direction so far.”
Before 2017, North hadn’t started 2-0 since 2005. The Sept. 3 rivalry win was North’s first over the Bruins since 2011. South had won the past nine meetings.
“It put a little extra pep in our step,” said senior Nathaniel Fritel, a wide receiver and defensive back. “We realized we’re a good team and we have a place to be. We’re excited for what’s to come now.”
The Spartans followed up the impressive two-win start with what they deem as a “disappointing” 35-21 loss to Dickinson (1-2, 0-1 WDA) last Friday, Roland said. The Midgets were ranked No. 5 in the latest Division 11A football poll.
“We still feel like it was within reach; we just can't make the mistakes we made,” said Roland, who took over as head coach in 2014. “We came out kind of flat — a long road trip — and just didn’t really recover very well. But we were able to put some points on the board and show that we can still respond to that adversity.”
While the 14-point loss wasn’t ideal, it hasn’t dampened North’s spirits. The Spartans are refocusing now and will be looking to bounce back from it at 7 p.m. Friday when they host Grand Forks Central.
“Playing Dickinson and losing was kind of humbling because we’re not as good as we thought we were,” said senior two-way lineman Jacob Johnson.
North’s success this year has started up front with an offensive line that’s loaded with experience, which Johnson helps anchor.
“In front of (Boutain) and in front of the backs is an awesome offensive line,” Roland said. “A group of guys that are really committed to the team, to one another, to really trying to perfect what it is they do.”
Three-year starting quarterback Boutain has also been a catalyst. The 5-foot-9, 170-pound Boutain has thrown for 552 yards and six touchdowns, completing 36 of 70 passes in the first three games this season. He’s just 13 yards shy of his yardage from a year ago. Boutain threw for 565 yards and six scores in seven games as a junior.
It helps that Boutain has a variety of weapons to throw to this year, including Fritel. The Spartans quarterback and receiver have combined for five touchdowns, including a 76-yard strike against South. The 6-foot, 175-pound Fritel has 21 catches for 358 yards this season.
“I know a lot of people think that we got moved down so it's not as competitive, but I just think we're a better team this year,” said Johnson, who has logged six tackles this season. “It’s still a tough division.”
North was tied for third in the most recent 11A poll with Devils Lake (2-0). Roland believes his team, which has playoff aspirations of their own, has the pieces to succeed this season, if they can put them all together.
“I would say the season is up for grabs. There's a lot of good teams; a lot of good competition that we haven't seen yet,” Fritel said. “It's gonna be the team that puts in the most effort or works the hardest during practice that’s gonna come out on top.”