It does not feel like 365 days have passed since the last one of these was put together yet here we are. As has become the tradition, the year was bookended by Frisco but there is a whole lot more than just that to talk about!
The Green & Gold made Frisco seventh heaven a few days in the year over Eastern Washington and then were upstaged in a classic Basketball game against South Dakota State a few weeks later on a buzzer-beater. Hoops teams from the area didn't stop there as Davies won the EDC then proceeded to the state championship game while the Shanley girls were also beaten at the very end of their bid for an Eastern title. Moorhead State's women continued their upward climb on the division 2 national scene with a near sweet 16 appearance to end last season and a national ranking to start the current one. NDSU's men also made some national noise as they fought their way to the title in Sioux Falls over Omaha and then got a victory in the tournament against NC Central before falling to Zion.
Away from the hardwood, the Bison Mountain (Payton Otterdahl) hurled his way through the indoor and outdoor T & F seasons with national accolades coming after seemingly every event. His success was accompanied by a handful of other achievements by members of both halves of the Bison faction. The Spring success wasn't limited to the Olympic sports as the Softball team opened up their renewed home and made the national competition once again, as they have so often this millennium.
Just down the street from their facility, the Redhawks brought a new manager aboard for the second year in a row as Michael Schlacht moved on and was replaced by Jim Bennett. That switch lead into one of the best Summers of Baseball that this town and the region at large has ever known. The squad from the Twin Cities squandered the record-setting showmen with a confounding indifference to their pitching staff, which on the bright-side meant that their ownership still didn't get the benefit of all that October money. On the local front, the Birds came up one win short of a division title and appearance in the association championship. The success even filtered down into the younger ranks of the game. Fargo Post 2 made it all the way to the American Legion World Series final before getting knocked off while the Dirt Dawgs completed an undefeated season with a championship of the BR13, with many of the players having been on the great team that wasn't quite able to make the LLWS in 2018.
But before much that success on the diamond, came more news from the Basketball court. The T-dogs moved into the latest new era as they hired Gersson Rosas from Houston to run the operation and made Ryan Sauders the non-interim head coach of the team. Their first acts are promising for the roster but they've taken a decidedly long view approach which may be the best. Back at home there also continued to be some banner developments for the hoops scene. Sam Griesel was able to spend time playing with the German national team and then he joined the squad as they spent some time playing in Puerto Rico. The time together may well have shortened the learning curve for Moorhead's Maleeck Harden-Hayes as he has already earned playing time in his freshman season. He is just one of many local recruits that will be apart of NDSU's successes going into the next decade. The Football team has long depended on the big boys from small towns to maintain the strength of the offensive line while many of the skilled players came from other places. That won't change, it shouldn't but getting players like Ty Satter, Tyler Terhark & Nathan Goldade from in town plus Oscar Benson & Mason Miller from nearby is a special facet of the next wave of players. And that's just scratching the surface. The point is, we're in as strong a time for local talent as I can ever remember.
So the Summer came & went with all that activity. Then the looming question of who would take over for the drafted Easton Stick. Oh yeah, that's worth mentioning - NDSU had another quarterback drafted. It was the fifth round so far less expectation than the #2 overall selection but he spent the year behind a fringe hall-of-fame quarterback and who knows, may get a chance next season. But back to Fargo, the quarterback competition came down to Trey Lance and Zeb Noland. It may have always been Lance's job to lose & considering the season he has had, that would have been acceptable but publicly it was touted as an open competition and I do wonder how it would have played out had Noland been given the chance. But they're undefeated and off to Texas again so I won't linger on that.
2019 wasn't all popped bottles and celebration though. The well-known story of Landon Solberg reached it's conclusion as he passed away in September. Not long after came the news that Ben Merck had also succumb to illness. Though his battle was much more brief and didn't get the notoriety that a division 1 coach can bring, it struck a similar cord. Before the ALS got the better of him, he had his wish granted and was able to visit Houston & meet James Harden. It's faint comfort but once again showed the impact that sports are able to have.
Two days after Landon's passing the games went ahead as scheduled, or at least tried to. A spectacular lightning storm halted action across the region well past sunset. Now that I think back on it, the way that it played out seems beyond coincidence.
Onward in the Football season, a couple of banner endings happened. The Bison played for the Marker against South Dakota State and lifted the rock again after game day. Then before their season came to its end, Concordia outdueled St. John's to an overtime victory, giving the eventual semi-finalist their only loss of the regular season. It's not a championship but highlight what was a sneaky good season by the Cobbers Football team. Their neighbors looked to build on a successful 2018 season but Moorhead State instead limped to a 6 - 5 record, winning three of the last four to get there.
On the prep level Moorhead, Ada/Borup, Win-E-Mac & Barnesville all made it to the Minnesota state tournament while Sheyenne got the championship game in North Dakota. None of the teams were able to raise the hardware but that shouldn't keep them from being considered successful squads!
Which just about brings us to the present. It's early in the seasons but Basketball & Hockey are full go and will likely create memories before January is through. Moorhead's boys of the ice already managed one in fact, as they overcame #1 ranked Eden Prairie in overtime on Saturday.
Now a personal note. 2019 was the best year yet as far as this little brand is concerned. Each of the milestones that had been thought of were hit over the last 365. So now it's about finding a way to repeat those successes in 2020. But none of it, NONE of it could have happened without all the new subscribers and followers that have helped make it the success that this is. So the only appropriate ending to this is to say thank you. Deeply, sincerely thank you!