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Select few Minnesota high school football players get fall season playing for Tri-State

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FAIRMOUNT-- Thousands of Minnesota athletes are missing out on football this fall, except for about a dozen from Campbell-Tintah High School. Those players are part of the Tri-State Tigers, a nine-man team made up of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota schools. This is a unique set-up for a team pandemic or not, but this season now means even more.

Despite a soggy Friday night in Fairmount, it isn’t slowing down the Tigers as they prepare to host Griggs-Midkota.

“It used to be all about wins and losses and right now it’s just so thankful that the kids can play and hopefully it can keep going. Even if we can get the full regular season, I know everyone wants playoffs, but even if we could get the full eight games in it would be great,” said parent Shawn Carl.

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This year though it’s not about what the stat sheet reads, it’s the fact that the Tigers’ season is even happening with it’s full roster.

“This is it, no other option, nobody else is actually playing football,” said Tri-State Head Coach Fernando Reese.

Three miles from Minnesota and 11 miles from the South Dakota border sits Fairmount, North Dakota. The home to the Tri-State Tigers.

“When I go out of town and I wear my Tri-State gear, they said oh where’s that college? I’m like it’s not a college, it’s a high school,” said Reese.

This high school roster is like none other, 31 players from three states make up this nine-man squad.

“It doesn’t seem too weird to us, but I know when I have talked to other people before they seem crazy, but we just seem like three schools getting together and playing some football,” said Rosholt (South Dakota) senior Derick Carl.

Most notably though the dozen players from Campbell-Tintah, the lone high school in Minnesota playing football this fall instead of next spring.

“I mean it’s a little weird because you know you have to go to another state, but that’s really isn’t much of a big deal,” said Campbell-Tintah Junior Andrew Purcell.

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“It’s pretty special because we don’t really have enough people from one individual school to make a team so have a lot of people from around the area built together for a team,” said Fairmount Sophomore Emmerson Taylor.

Since Campbell-Tintah already had a co-op with Fairmount, they were the lone program in the state granted permission from the Minnesota State High School League to compete this fall.

“It's special that we get to play this year. I have friends in Minnesota that don’t get to play, they have to wait until spring to play. It just won’t have the meaning to play in the spring like it does in the fall. They wish they could come here and play with us but they can’t,” said Taylor.

“It’s very unique, like I said, just the point of having that many states together to make out one actual sports program is kind of fun,” said Reese.

Fun, the main message second year Head Coach Fernando Reese wants to emphasize in a season with so much uncertainty.

“It is so awesome to have the friendship that they come from. They didn't know each other when they were seventh graders and now they’re best friends. I mean we travel all the way from 40 miles around to come to play in one spot. It’s probably the greatest thing the kids have got to see is just getting to play with other teammates from another town,” said Shawn Carl.

Tri-State may be one the smallest programs in North Dakota, but they have big goals to be remembered beyond just this season.

“This is our second year back playing North Dakota football, a lot of people around the state have never really heard of Tri State. Never even knew these schools existed really. I just want everybody to know that they can keep watching us, we’re going to make a name for ourselves,” said Reese.

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Usually the Tigers try to split games between Rosholt and Fairmount, but because of the pandemic all practices and games are on the North Dakota side this year. Tri-State plays at May-Port-C-G this Friday.

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