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Holmen relishes being head coach for North Dakota

Press Photo by Royal McGregor Barry Holmen of Minot High watches Team North Dakota during Badlands Bowl practice on Monday at Dickinson High. This is Holmen’s first year as the head coach for Team North Dakota.

Minot High’s Barry Holmen stood front and center as players from Team North Dakota huddled around him after practice on Monday.

Holmen is at the helm for the first time as Team North Dakota plays Team Montana in the 21st annual Badlands Bowl at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Biesiot Activities Center.

Holmen said it was quite an honor to be named Team North Dakota’s head coach.

“I’m very honored to be here and I know our coaches are honored to be here,” he said. “I hope our kids understand that it’s pretty special to represent your state in anything. We are going to enjoy this week completely.”

Team North Dakota includes 34 of the state’s best players.

Holmen doesn’t have to look far to see some familiar faces. Minot has five players on the Badlands Bowl roster, including Holmen’s son, Jacob.

“We are real happy with the 34 kids we have out here,” Barry said. “Up front, we have some nice size and very athletic kids. You look at our lineman and I’m going to guess at least eight or nine of them were state qualifiers in track and field recently. We have some kids who are in good shape up front and they have some explosiveness. We have some kids with exception speed.”

Jacob Holmen said it’s unique to be coached by his father for one final week. The Minot High graduate will play football at the University of North Dakota in the fall.

“It’s special,” he said. “At the end of last season, I thought it was all coming to an end and then he was asked to coach (Team North Dakota) and he asked me to play it was pretty cool.”

The rest of Team North Dakota’s coaching staff includes Wayne Werremeyer of Fargo Davies, Minot’s Chauncy Hendershot, Hazen’s Rick Philion, Shiloh Christian’s Funnon Barker and Kindred’s Cody Kittelson.

For Philion, the 21st annual Badlands Bowl marks his first stint as being an assistant coach for Team North Dakota. Philion coached Hazen to back-to-back Class 1A state titles. Two of Philion’s players at Hazen are playing in the Badlands Bowl — Austin Cieslak and Hunter Fears.

“That’s what’s nice about games like this. You are playing with guys who are extremely talented,” Philion said. “You really don’t have to do a whole lot of coaching. It’s mostly just reinstruction because they know what they are doing. They are basically like coaches on the field.”

Team North Dakota has only had a total of four practices as of Monday.

Despite the lack of playing time together, Barry Holmen is pleased with where the team currently stands.

“When you install offensive and defensive schemes in a short amount of time, you are going to have a little ebb and flow,” he said. “You are going to feel good sometimes and I felt we made a nice step forward on both sides of the ball. It truly is just getting kids to work as a unit. We are teaching new lingo and coaches are getting to know each other a little bit better. It’s coming.”

Jacob Holmen said many of the players are familiar with one another. However, he said now it’s a little different playing as a team than competing against one another.

“It has been pretty good,” he said. “Before this, we were all playing against each other and we probably didn’t like each other very much, but getting together you find out that they are cool guys and they love the game of football just like you do. It’s just fun to play with them.”