Night Hawks, Bulldogs restart an old rivalryDalton Reitz was in elementary school the last time a high school football game was played in Scranton.
By: Dustin Monke, The Dickinson Press
Dalton Reitz was in elementary school the last time a high school football game was played in Scranton.
At 7 p.m. today, the lights of Scranton’s football field will shine over the town of less than 300 people for the first time since 2002 — and Reitz will be at the center of it all.
“I just remember being a kid, watching all the teams play there and hoping I’d get a chance,” Reitz said. “And now I do.”
Reitz and the Hettinger-Scranton Night Hawks take the field for their first game against Bowman County, the team Reitz and the rest of Scranton’s football players had been with since the school dropped football in 2003.
When Scranton dissolved its cooperative agreement with Bowman County last winter to join Hettinger in all sports, it put both teams in the 9-man football enrollment category.
As luck would have it, the teams drew each other in Week 1.
“It wasn’t planned that way,” Hettinger-Scranton coach Randy Burwick said. “It kind of worked out.”
It has also restarted a once-fierce rivalry.
When both Hettinger and Bowman County were in 11-man and played each season, their annual football game was known as the Battle for The Bone.
The Bone is the ceremonial trophy given to the game’s winner.
“It was a huge rivalry for us,” Burwick said.
Burwick said his team has come together nicely in its first two weeks of practice.
He added that seniors from both Hettinger and Scranton are taking the reins and doing their best to push the program in the right direction.
“I think they’re kind of feeding off each other a little bit and trying to push the team in the right direction, I really do,” Burwick said. “It’s awesome.
“Everybody knows we’re one team.”
The same sentiment is true for the Bulldogs, who not only lost a handful of Scranton players who could have contributed to their team, but 11 seniors off last year’s team.
The move to 9-man will help, Bowman County head coach Travis Hagar said. But he added that the Bulldogs now must get used to a style of football where teams thrive more on athleticism than size.
“I think it’ll be good for our program, but make no mistake about it, it’s just as tough as 11-man,” Hagar said.
Hagar added that while losing Scranton may have hurt the Bulldogs’ program, it could be a positive in the end since it gave Bowman County a true rival it has longed for since the days when both the Bulldogs and the Hettinger Black Devils were in 11-man.
“It’ll be a good rivalry,” Hagar said. “I think that’s what Bowman has been missing. Now I guess we’ve got one. It’s going to be fun.”
Burwick said there isn’t much more his team can get accomplished in practice.
The Night Hawks need tonight’s game to gauge their progress.
“We can’t really do much more evaluation until we get into game speed and find out,” he said. “We need to be put up against competition and see how the boys react.”
Reitz, who will start at tailback and linebacker tonight for the Night Hawks in their only varsity game at the Scranton field this season, said the toughest part of the switch for him hasn’t been getting used to playing with new teammates or on new fields.
The most challenging aspect so far has been getting accustomed to 9-man football after playing 11-man at Bowman County since junior high.
It is getting easier though, he said.
“It’s still football and it’s still fun, so I’m liking it so far,” Reitz said.