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Press Photo by Royal McGregor Dickinson State head coach Pete Stanton works with the defense on Aug. 10 at the Biesiot Activities Center. Stanton enters his first year as head coach of the Blue Hawks.

At the helm: Pete Stanton takes over as head coach, looks to put DSU football back in traditional competitive form

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At the helm: Pete Stanton takes over as head coach, looks to put DSU football back in traditional competitive form
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The Dickinson State football team didn’t have to look far for its new head coach — he was already standing on the sidelines.

After 38 impressive seasons at the helm, Hank Biesiot stepped down last November. The next month, defensive assistant and linebackers coach Pete Stanton was named to the position.

0 Talk about it

While the man in the head coaching spot has changed, there is still a familiarity for Stanton, as most of his assistants and about 50 players are returning from last season.

“It’s gone fine so far. Of course we haven’t played a game or won a game but it’s been fun,” Stanton said. “We got off to a start in the spring and a couple things were big there. We were able to get the start with the guys knowing the roles have changed and that was important.

“The system is the same, the assistants are the same, so that’s definitely made it easier knowing I have worked with this staff and group of guys for a while.”

Stanton is not a newcomer to the coaching realm or Blue Hawk football. He enters his 14th season with his alma mater and was a standout safety in the 1980s. But before he even started his career, Stanton knew he was destined to become a coach and an educator.

The Baker, Mont., native comes from a family of coaches and teachers and was heavily influenced by his father, Jim, at a young age.

“Coaching has been one of those things that has been a part of me, a part of my family,” Stanton said. “I got three brothers who are successful coaches out in Montana and it’s something that’s been a family thing. … I don’t think any of us thought of anything else besides teaching and coaching.”

After graduating from DSU, Stanton spent a year at the university coaching before spending 11 years coaching high school football in Terry, Mont., and Belgrade, Mont.

While the locations may have differed, Stanton’s philosophies and desire to coach never faded. His love to inspire and help create mature young men and women has given his life a purpose and makes the daily grind enjoyable.

“That’s the thing about coaching and the profession, you look forward to going in and working with young people,” he said. “I don’t consider it a job. I consider it as fun, to get up and I look forward going to my job and that’s the fun part about it.”

Reviving a tradition

It’s no secret DSU football has fallen on hard times.

The Blue Hawks, who are rich in winning traditions, are coming off three consecutive losing seasons and only three wins over the last two. The team desperately needed help and Stanton was the right man at the right time.

“We were all really excited, obviously it was good. It wasn’t a huge transition that we had to meet someone new and stuff like that,” junior quarterback Thad Lane said. “A lot of the older guys already had a pretty good relationship with coach and so that was a lot easier for us.

“I mean, it’s never easy to see someone like Biesiot go, but having coach Stanton step in and get that job has made it a lot easier for the guys who are older.”

As an assistant coach, Stanton helped DSU to seven conference championship and NAIA playoff appearances. Even as a player he was a part of notable teams that rarely saw losses. With a winning mentality and nature, Stanton’s goal for this upcoming season is to restore faith and a fighting spirit back into his players.

“What we are pushing with our guys is we are a program rich in tradition and there’s a lot of pride and tradition in this program,” Stanton said. “But now we have guys going into their third year who haven’t had a winning season.

“I really, myself and my staff, have been pushing. There’s a lot of people behind this program. There’s a lot of pride and tradition with this program and we are going to do everything we can with this team to get it back on track.”

So far, Stanton’s players have been receptive to his ideas and his leadership.

Junior defensive end Matt McCoy has been a part of the defense and worked directly with Stanton for the past four years. McCoy said he understands the key components Stanton brings to the whole team.

“He makes everyone disciplined and accountable for themselves, which I like because you need it on the defensive side of the ball, as well as the offense,” McCoy said.

Following his own path

Though it’s challenging to follow up after a coach of a legendary status like Biesiot, Stanton said the key is to stick to your guns and be yourself.

He respects the way Biesiot ran his team for nearly 40 years but also knows he must be true to himself and help usher DSU into the next phase of its football life. The Blue Hawks have officially left the Frontier Conference and entered the North Star Athletic Association, making it the perfect time to experiment with changes.

DSU hosts Rocky Mountain College (Mont.) on Saturday — which Stanton joked will cause many sleepless nights — and Stanton is thrilled to have a newly confident and retooled team begin a new season as it tries to turn heads.

“On my end of it, the big thing is doing the things I feel are going to help us as a program and knowing there is going to be ups and downs, and being able to handle it,” Stanton said. “The big thing is being myself and realizing we all honor coach B for what he did. But now it’s time to take the next step, being myself, have the guys be themselves and continue to play good football.”

Meaghan MacDonald
Meaghan is the sports reporter for the Dickinson Press, focusing primarily on Dickinson State athletics and rodeo. 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.