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Continuing tradition: 6 Blue Hawks conclude their careers at the Biesiot Activities Center

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Dickinson State senior offensive lineman Nick Yelton, right, fires up teammates before the season opener against Frontier Conference opponent Montana State-Northern on Aug. 29 at the Biesiot Activities Center. Yelton is joined by Ryan Payne, Brock Overbo, Kyle Watson, Colton Hill and Antwan Smith as the six graduating seniors.

The Dickinson State football program was built on the foundation of tradition. It’s something all alumni players know and what active veteran players strive to teach the newcomers.

With the Blue Hawks’ season ending today, so are the football careers of six seniors, Ryan Payne, Nick Yelton, Brock Overbo, Kyle Watson, Colton Hill and Antwan Smith, who each stood as a pillar of DSU tradition and true leadership.

“We’ve had a different mix, a lot of young guys … you’d like to have more seniors, but those guys have all played a big role in the year and played hard,” DSU head coach Hank Biesiot said. “Six isn’t a big number but at the same time, whatever the number is you want some leadership and want some esprit de corps out of the seniors. We’ve been good that way.”

The Blue Hawks will lose three starting seniors on each side of the ball. Payne, Yelton and Overbo are all on the offensive line, while Smith plays at cornerback, Hill at nose guard and Wilson — formerly a four-year linebacker — switched to fullback three weeks ago. Currently, DSU is 1-9 on the season, a record the team tried every week to avoid.

Despite the talent and competitive nature of the Frontier Conference, the team had to deal with a number of adversities, most importantly injuries.

On the offense, players were bit by the injury bug nearly every week. Toward the end of the season, the Blue Hawk started to run thin at offensive line. The line was the most battered and beaten out of any other position — players had to fight through broken bones and other injuries all season just to play and keep the offense in check. Yelton, who has torn ligaments in each knee, has been fighting through his knee problems all season and will try and fight through it one last time on Saturday.

“It’s been tough but it’s our senior year and we’ve been just playing tough and got to make of it what you can,” Yelton said. “Go out there and play hard every game.”

Overbo added: “The season hasn’t gone how we wanted or expected, but nobody in this locker room has ever given up. We worked our hardest every day of every week for every game and we plan on going out on top.”

Being a part of Blue Hawk football means understanding the importance of team unity and being fortunate to have a family away from home. When the team spends six of seven days together on the field, it’s hard to not form a bond, like Payne, Yelton and Overbo — who have been roommates since their first year at DSU.

Five years at one football program gave the seniors a true insight into how elite of a football fraternity they will always be a part of, from the coaches who were once Blue Hawks and playing for Biesiot, who has a 258-120-1 record over 38 seasons.

“I couldn’t have played for a better bunch of coaches or guys,” Overbo said. “And us three, we’ve been roommates for the last five years, so we’ve been a tight knit family the whole way through.”

Yelton added: “It’s been fun, hanging out with these guys for the last five years, playing for Coach B and playing for a legend.”

After the seniors are recognized on the field in pregame festivities, after the offensive line stares into the eyes of the defense awaiting the snap, after the stands have cleared out and the Biesiot Activities Center is empty and silent, reality will finally hit.

However, this isn’t a sad goodbye. The chance to play football is a sliver in time, but the memories and emotions the players will have to cherish last a lifetime.

“I’ve thought about it a lot and it’s going to be hard not playing,” Payne said. “I’ve played football more in my life than years that I haven’t so it’s going to be tough playing the last game. But I’m looking forward to going out and playing harder and playing a team like Carroll. I’d rather end it on a game like that than anything else.”

Meaghan MacDonald

Meaghan is the sports page designer and copy editor for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.  After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism and was a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press and covered Dickinson State athletics. Meaghan has been working for the Forum since June 2015.