Teaching what they were taught: Former Bison players pass along their love for football as high school coaches
The Bison attitude. The Langdon High School football team has it. So does Fargo Shanley, New Rockford-Sheyenne and Oakes. For seven prep head football coaches in North Dakota and Minnesota, all former NDSU players, the apple hasn't fallen very fa...
The Bison attitude.
The Langdon High School football team has it. So does Fargo Shanley, New Rockford-Sheyenne and Oakes.
For seven prep head football coaches in North Dakota and Minnesota, all former NDSU players, the apple hasn't fallen very far from the Bison family tree.
"You want to share the experience you had with other people," said third-year Langdon coach Andy DelaBarre, a Bison tight end from 2002-05. "It's great to see the fun, excitement and success you had continued on to the next generation."
DelaBarre is part of a growing group of former Bison players who are sticking around the Fargo-Moorhead area for high school coaching careers.
Kevin Feeney, who had successful stints with Shanley and Fargo South, is in his first season at Moorhead. Steve Laqua, who helped Shanley to the North Dakota Class 2A title a year ago, is in his fourth season with the Deacons.
Shawn Sagert has been the head coach at Oakes for six years.
Elliott Belquist is in his second season at New Rockford, and Tony Stauss (Oak Grove) and Cody Kittelson (Kindred) are each in their first year.
All are within 200 miles of where they made their mark on the football field with the Bison. And all heap on tons of credit for their success as head coaches to the on-the-job training they received at NDSU.
"It sets the bar high," said Laqua, who was a linebacker and quarterback for the Bison from 1997-2000 before beginning his coaching career as an NDSU graduate assistant. "Winning is what is expected. Winning and being great is really the standard of excellence."
There is that Bison attitude.
Shanley used it to transform from a team that won one game in the two years before Laqua's arrival into a juggernaut looking for two-consecutive state titles.
It's also part of what helped Feeney - the son of legendary former Bismarck High coach Bob Feeney - create a perennial powerhouse at Fargo South that went 64-8 in his six years as coach. The Bruins earned three North Dakota Class 3A championships during that span.
Now, Feeney is trying to carry over that same winning tradition to the Spuds program.
"I think the big thing was how important tradition was at NDSU," said Feeney, a standout quarterback at NDSU from 1994-98. "The coaches did a great job of selling that tradition. They really made you want to be a part of something, something bigger than yourself. Once a Bison, always a Bison."
Before Sagert took over the Oakes job in 2004, the Tornados hadn't had a winning season in 16 years. The team went 5-4 in Sagert's first season, and has made the state quarterfinals the last two years.
"You take the winning tradition with you wherever you go," said Sagert, a Bison nose guard from 1999-2003. "There have been a lot of games that we have been behind and come back and won. Sometimes you look on paper and you are wondering how you are going to win?
"But it's not over until it's over."
There is that attitude again.
As new coaches, Belquist, Kittelson and Stauss each know the importance of getting their players to buy into the philosophy.
Belquist, who graduated from New Rockford-Sheyenne in 1999 and played receiver for NDSU from 1999-2003, finished 5-4 last year in his first season as a head coach.
He said he leans heavily on what he learned in the Bison program. And he returned home to relay that knowledge to the next generation of Rockets players.
"One thing for sure, when you go there you feel like you are going to win," Belquist said. "You feel like you can win all the time. It's definitely something we are trying to carry here."
Kittelson and Stauss have each opened 0-4 in their first years. However, both say they see progress each week as they attempt to build a winning program.
"The Bison coaching philosophy rubs off on all of us," said Stauss, a former NDSU quarterback from 2003-05. "Not only with his other coaches, but with the players he has. We get hyped up and we want to go out and use that knowledge, go out into the town and put it to work."
"It's that never-quit attitude," said Kittelson, a Bison safety in 2001-04. "It's that Bison pride. You want your kids to play until the end for their school and their teammates. You want them to come out of a game knowing they gave everything they could."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Heath Hotzler at (701) 241-5562.
Hotzler's blogs can be found at www.areavoices.com