Seniors Sam Viger and Jared Tangen have only two wins in their entire high school football careers. Two wins. That’s it.
Hungry to make their mark, these Tri-State seniors are excited about this year’s football schedule with their unique cooperative that combines three high schools in three different states — Fairmount in North Dakota, Campbell-Tintah in Minnesota and Rosholt in South Dakota.
For the first time ever, the Tri-State cooperative is playing North Dakota 9-man football. That makes Viger and Tangen smile.
For years the two have stood on the sidelines surrounded by about 20 other players, pitting themselves up against teams with three times the number of players in the South Dakota 9-man ranks. It was tough, Tangen said, since many of the Tri-State players were underclassmen just to field a full team.
Both Tangen and Viger are four-year starters for the Tigers. That freshman year, Tangen said he had a stomach ache that first game, not knowing what to expect. “We have a small team and not much backup, so we had to make do with what we had,” he said.
Now Tri-State will be playing comparable teams, like Hankinson, Griggs County Central, Mayport-Clifford-Galesburg, to name a few. First up this Friday is Wyndmere-Lidgerwood.
There are other firsts in place for this year’s football players, now with their third head coach in the past three years as Fernando Reese takes the helm this year. He joined the team late last year as the defensive coordinator, he said.
Reese has been living in Wahpeton for about seven years and brings a wealth of football knowledge. He played corner back through college and with the semi professional football team called the Fargo Invaders. He brought two teammates from the Invaders as his assistant coaches — Rochenel Jeanbaptiste is the defensive back and wide receiver coach, while Taurean Smith is the linebacker and running back coach. Devan Flaa returns as the offensive coordinator.
Reese is excited about this year’s football team, he said. The big push that first week of practice was fundamentals. He said he will grow the team from there. He has returning players in skilled positions as his team of 19 is made up of 10 upperclassmen.
Tangen and Viger are excited to begin. Playing in North Dakota against comparable teams gives the Tigers a chance for the first time in co-op history. “They’ve never seen us in pads so now they will know what it feels like to be hit by us,” Tangen said, grinning.