The 17th annual Badlands Bowl is back in Dickinson on Saturday night for the first time since 2007.
The game will be the first football game played in the completed Badlands Activities Center and be the first event where fans will have be free to roam Lowman-Walton Concourse, visit the indoor concession stands and use a bathroom other than the porta-johns they’ve been using since last August. For those who put good money into buying suites, their mini-fridges will be stocked full of food and beverage.
Dickinson State, Dickinson High and Dickinson Trinity played all their home games at the venue last fall, but fans were relegated to sit on the hill opposite of the stadium. Many sat in lawn chairs, some sat on the bleachers provided by DSU (from the old New England baseball field, I might add) and a lot of you sat in the grass. DSU got lucky and had great weather for all but one game. And that was the 48-0 win over Mayville State, a game during which many fans headed to The Spur at halftime.
Dickinson Trinity and Dickinson High weren’t as lucky. Friday night’s seemed to bring quite a bit of rain and weather. Fans toughed it out on the hill and now they have the chance to watch games in a stadium Team North Dakota head coach Mark Gibson calls "incredible." Gibson, some of you long-in-the-tooth readers may remember, played for the great Blue Hawk teams of the late 80s. He’s now the coach at Bismarck High and said his team’s home venue, the Bismarck Community Bowl, has nothing on the BAC.
North Dakota has some weapons at their disposal this year, meaning a repeat of Montana’s 2009′s 33-7 whooping and 2008′s 54-14 thrashing may not be as easy this time around. Quarterback Esley Thorton is the real deal. The Bismarck southpaw should get a chance to show his stuff in this game with nice corps of receivers such as Bismarck Century’s Garret Jacobs, Bismarck High’s Nick Jolliffe, Grand Forks Red River’s Elby Pope and Jamestown’s Jordan Piatz — who may have the best hands on the team from what I saw early in the week — at his disposal.
Running backs Ryan Smith of Wahpeton and Jake Miller of Bismarck should also provide a nice punch in the backfield. With Carrington manchild Devin Barton, a 6-foot-6, 270-pound left tackle bound for UND, leading the way, North Dakota’s line may be in for a good game too. When North Dakota won in 2007, it was led by a solid offense, though not overall as good as this one. But, the one thing that team had going for it was its offensive line, anchored by current NDSU starter Austin Richard.
Defensively, I don’t know exactly what North Dakota is going to do. Many of their big names are playing mostly on the offensive side of the ball. I can tell you that Trinity standout Aaron Grinsteinner will be in the defensive backfield and it’s likely that Hazen’s Brent Sorensen will be too. Look for linebackers Travis Beck of Langdon and Tyler Gefroh of Red River, who are both NDSU recruits, to lead the defense.
As for Team Montana, here’s a story by Billings Gazette reporter Greg Rachac that gives us a little insight about them. I’ll be talking with Montana head coach Tony Arntson of Helena High on Friday to learn more about the boys from The Treasure State. Montana holds a 12-4 edge in the series.
Look for Montana to go to receiver Matt Miller early and often. The Boise State-bound star is 6-foot-4 and 215 pounds and is, from what I have heard, every bit the D-I receiver he sounds like.