One football team blurs state lines: F-C-T teams up with Rosholt in unusual co-op
Fairmount, N.D. - Football Fridays are about the pep rallies in the gym. It is about walking through the hallways and seeing the banners boasting school pride. For a football player, it is about wearing a jersey in class and then seeing a teammat...
Fairmount, N.D. - Football Fridays are about the pep rallies in the gym.
It is about walking through the hallways and seeing the banners boasting school pride.
For a football player, it is about wearing a jersey in class and then seeing a teammate in class knowing there is solidarity.
Daniel VanOverbeke doesn't have any of that that. The senior is the only varsity football player at Fairmount High School.
"It's no different than any other day, I guess," said VanOverbeke, who plays tight end and defensive end. "You just walk around the halls and wear your jersey."
After a brief pause, this is where VanOverbeke says that he's proud to be a Tri-State Tiger, a feeling that's felt by his teammates who attend school in Minnesota and South Dakota.
Three schools in three different states found a way to combine and create a football team. The co-op is comprised of students from Campbell-Tintah (Minn.), Rosholt (S.D.) and Fairmount.
The Tigers enter their sixth season of South Dakota football. They hope to improve on last season's first-ever playoff appearance, where they advanced to the second round of the 9-man playoffs.
"Rosholt was struggling at the time and Campbell-Tintah-Fairmount was in a co-op with Hankinson, and for some reason it didn't work out," said Tigers head coach Steven Schlitz, who is based in Rosholt. "They asked if we wanted to co-op with them and we decided that it was something we wanted to do."
Like many co-ops, it all came down to numbers.
Enrollment figures for the 2011-12 school year show Campbell-Tintah with 35 students.
High school enrollment figures for Fairmount and Rosholt were not available. But district-wide numbers have Fairmount at 125 students and Rosholt with 222.
"People ask us if we're all really big and I tell them not really," said senior Dillon Berend, who attends Campbell-Tintah. "But together, we're pretty decent."
Schlitz said Rosholt only had 14 players to play 9-man football in his first season, which was about seven years ago.
Combining with Campbell-Tintah-Fairmount meant more players could play football.
It also meant that the team had to find a central location for practice. Instead, they rotate practices between Campbell, Fairmount and Rosholt. That means a 19-mile drive from Fairmount to Rosholt, 32 miles from Rosholt to Campbell and 13 miles from Campbell to Fairmount.
"Some days it is pretty exhausting," said senior lineman Mark Moeller, who is from Rosholt. "You want to get practice going right away, but at the same time, I've been doing it for four years and it is pretty natural."
The rotation is just part of the quirkiness that comes with the Tigers.
Schlitz set up a schedule allowing the Tigers to play teams from Minnesota and North Dakota in addition to their South Dakota schedule.
Where they play home games is also an interesting setup. Two home games will be at Rosholt and the other two will be at Fairmount.
The team will have two homecomings this year - one at Fairmount and the other at Rosholt.
"A lot of people thought when Rosholt came in that because they were so far away, that it wasn't going to work," said Berend, who plays offensive and defensive line. "But I think around here, people have been shocked by how much we've grown."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.
Clark's Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com