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John’s Journal: Buses Filled With Fans, Free Of Charge

Fertile-Beltrami Community Made Sure All Could Make The Trip

Posted: Saturday, November 27, 2021 - 2:37 PM

Fertile fans

Fertile-Beltrami fans salute their Falcons following the Nine-Man football state championship game.

The little Minnesota town of Fertile, located 23 miles southeast of Crookston, was founded in 1879 when the first settlers arrived. Brothers Knute and Einar Nelson, plus their uncle Lars A. Bolstad, made their way to Minnesota from Norway. Soon thereafter, brothers Askeld Olsen Morvig and Anders Olsen Morvig were part of a group that set up homesteads near the Nelson-Bolstad place.

At any mention of the word “pigskin,” those pioneers would probably have thought of a nice hat or gloves made from hog parts. But in this autumn nearly a century and a half later, football has been the biggest thing in Fertile – as well as in  Beltrami, 13 miles due west – since about as long as anyone can recall.

A great testament to the support for the Fertile-Beltrami Falcons came walking through the Legacy Gate at U.S. Bank Stadium for Saturday’s Nine-Man football state championship game. Business owners, farmers and other folks made sure everyone in those little towns (Fertile has 808 residents and Beltrami is home to 101 proud citizens) could catch a free ride to the game … 275 miles and more than four hours away from home.

Five chartered buses were filled with Falcon fans, all riding free of charge, thanks to approximately $25,000 worth of donations. In a report by Matt Henson of WDAY TV in Fargo, “We get to see these kids every day, ever since they asked their parents for candy in the candy aisle," said Travid Jensrud, the co-owner of JT's Station, a convenience store in Fertile. (Click here to see the story: )

"Oh, that's just our community. It’s very tight-knit,” said Falcons coach Brian Nelson after a 58-8 loss to LeRoy-Ostrander. “They love their sports teams, along with band and choir, too, and they get behind you, they support you.

“You know, that's just the tip of the iceberg, with some of the things that have been donated, like food and snacks on the bus and things like that. We're very, very grateful for those and we'll get thank yous off as soon as we can get take a little while to digest some of this.”

The Falcons fans filled the stands behind their team’s bench and never stopped pulling for their boys. The players were well aware of their fans, too.

“Our crowd is insane,” said senior Austin Bjerk. “You look back in the stands and it’s all red. We just love that, all the support they give us. It’s like the whole town was here.”

Classmate Rylin Petry added, “I'm very grateful. It’s such a great community. They've been with us since the first game. We had a whole bunch of people come to our home games and away games. And now, looking to see them in the stands, it was great, the amount of support we have, and we're very thankful for that.”

Fertile-Beltrami played in its first Prep Bowl, advancing to the state tournament for the first time since 2006 and sixth time overall. The Falcons finished with a record of 13-1.

LeRoy-Ostrander, at state for the 13th time and first since 2004, won its first championship; the Cardinals were state runners-up in 1993 and 1995. They finished 12-2, losing to Lanesboro and Grand Meadow during the regular season and defeating both in the Section 1 playoffs.

The Cardinals also were recipients of strong community support that went beyond the large number of fans at U.S. Bank Stadium. They held two practices this week at the Packer Dome in Austin, a bubble that covers Austin High School’s football/soccer field during cold months. Community contributions covered those costs.

God bless our community,” said LeRoy-Ostrander coach Trevor Carrier, who also talked about his small group of players.

“You look at our sideline and we’ve got 18, 19 guys,” he said. “We don't have a lot of guys but we have a lot of quality. I wouldn't trade my 18 guys for another 60 anywhere.”

Prep Bowl Records And More

--LeRoy-Ostrander quarterback Chase Johnson finished with a Prep Bowl-record 412 yards (140 passing, 272 rushing). The previous record was 401 (344 passing, 57 rushing) by Cory Hackett of Waterville-Elysian-Morristown in 1999.

--Plainview-Elgin-Millville’s Martin Prieto set a Prep Bowl record with 24 total tackles in the Bulldogs’ 28-21 loss to Dassel-Cokato in the Class 3A title game. His teammate, Peyton Schumacher, also broke the previous record with 23 tackles. The record was 21 by Joel Staats of Winona in a 13-7 loss to Moorhead in 1987. The Prep Bowl record for unassisted tackles is 20 by Carter Greguson of Rochester Lourdes in a 42-35 Class 3A win over St. Croix Lutheran in 2016.

--Fertile-Beltrami’s Brayden Werpy had a record total of 197 yards on kickoff returns. That topped the previous record of 161 (for all returns and kick returns) set by Willmar’s Ethan Roux in 2018 in a 44-18 loss to SMB in the Class 4A title game.

--The Prep Bowl record for longest run from scrimmage is 92 yards by Hutchinson’s Robbie Grimsley in 2013. Another Hutch Tiger, Mitchell Piehl, ran for a 90-yard score in Friday’s 42-14 Class 4A win over Kasson-Mantorville.  

--Brad Rosa, a member of the officiating crew for Saturday’s Nine-Man championship game, worked his second Prep Bowl game. The first was 37 years ago, in 1984, when he was on the field as Granite Falls defeated Breckenridge 13-7 for the Class B title.

--Lakeville South, which won the Class 6A title Friday night with a 13-7 win over Maple Grove, has a first-year offensive coordinator who is no stranger to championship football. Jon Bakken was the head coach at Waterville-Elysian-Morristown for 34 years, winning state championships in 1989, 1999 and 2009.

2021 Prep Bowl

Friday’s Games

1A: Mayer Lutheran 20, Minneota 14

2A: Chatfield 14, West Central Area/Ashby 13

4A: Hutchinson 42, Kasson-Mantorville 14

6A: Lakeville South 13, Maple Grove 7

Saturday’s Games

Nine-Man: LeRoy-Ostrander 58, Fertile-Beltrami 8

3A: Dassel-Cokato 28, Plainview-Elgin-Millville 21

5A: Mankato West 24, Mahtomedi 10

--MSHSL media specialist John Millea has been the leading voice of Minnesota high school activities for decades. Follow him on Twitter @MSHSLjohn and listen to "Preps Today with John Millea” wherever you get podcasts. Contact John at [email protected] 


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Prep Bowl Championship Class AAA Dassel-Cokato 28 Plainview-Elgin-Millville 21