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Bulldogs look to begin season on high note: With new coach at the helm, Bowman County seeks to forget past and focus on the future

Photo by Jason Waskiewicz / Bowman County Pioneer Bowman County senior Tel Lardt, left, rushes against Richardton-Taylor-Hebron during a 9-man, Region 4 game on Sept. 27 in Bowman.

The win column hasn’t been very kind to the Bowman County football team over the past three seasons.

The Bulldogs are 1-25 during that stretch.

However, first-year head coach Greg Yale believes there are brighter days are on the horizon.

“There’s ebb and flow in all sports where teams are really good for a while and they eventually come around again,” Yale said. “Just because we haven’t won too many in the last two years doesn’t mean we aren’t running a quality program. I’m proud of the kids and their work ethic.”

This is Yale’s first head coaching job in 14 years. He was last a head coach in Philip, S.D.

Though it’s his first year as the head coach, Yale knows the players quite well as he has been an assistant coach for the past two seasons.

“I’m in my 29th or 30th year as a football coach and I’ve been a head coach 11 of those years,” Yale said. “It’s not necessary a shock for me. I’ve had a little experience with it. That’s been very helpful to be prepared for this scenario. I’m excited to be a head coach again. I’m looking forward to it and we got a good bunch of kids to work with and a real good school and community to work with our program.”

Bowman County ended the 2013 season with a convincing 38-6 win against Trenton-Trinity Christian.

The Bulldogs averaged 16 points per game and allowed 45.3. Yet, the Bulldogs are returning a host of players with three to four years of varsity experience.

Leading the way is the seniors with Tel Lardy, Bondon Scott, Jordan Bloomgren, Jason Schade, Kyle McGee and Chandler Braaten. Bowman County also returns many juniors and sophomores, which will receive plenty of playing time.

“They’ve got a lot of experience under their belt,” Yale said. “It’s just not a lot of winning experience. We are hoping to turn that around. I think it’s a combination of confidence, skill and momentum. If we can just win one early to get everyone excited about the season, that would make a huge difference.”

Braaten and Scott have started for the Bulldogs since they were freshmen. However, the two running backs have had rough roads at the varsity level as they’ve been plagued by injuries.

Yale hopes those misfortunates don’t repeat.

“(Scott) has had some serious injuries,” he said. “Two years ago he was our starting running back and he was injured in the first half of the first game of the year. Last year, he broke his ankle real bad in the second game of the year. (Braaten) is a very good athlete and he was a starting running back the first year I was here. Those two running backs went out with serious injuries in the first game. That’s the kind of luck we’ve had. We are hoping to reverse the curse, but I believe it’s about time to reap the rewards for both of those guys.”

One of the biggest challenges being the head coach in Bowman County is fielding enough players. The Bulldogs have 27 players this season, the most since Yale has been with the team.

In Bowman County, the football team competes with the cross country team for athletes. Yale doesn’t blame some of the best athletes for competing in cross country as the Bulldogs placed third in the Class B West Region meet last season and then went to take fourth at the state meet.

“We have a very quality cross country program that has done very well,” Yale said. “A lot of good athletes that would probably make really good football players choose to be in cross country — and for good reason. We are one of the bigger schools in the 9-man classifications, but we are one of the only ones that’s trying to run a quality cross country and quality football program at the same time.

“Bowman County has a rich tradition of football. I remember early in my coaching career that Bowman was always competitive and always in the playoff hunt.”

Like many coaches in 9-man, Region 4 Yale believes Shiloh Christian is on a level all its own. The Skyhawks won Region 4 and finished with a 10-1 record. Their only loss occurred during the state semifinals to Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn, 32-31.

Yale said the region’s three remaining playoff spots are up for grabs.

“There is quality football being played around here,” Yale said. “Shiloh has a very good football team and I would be surprised if they weren’t the Nos. 1- or 2-ranked team in the polls to start the season. After them, there’s a tier of about four teams. And on any given night, anyone of those teams can beat each other.”

Unlike many teams in Region 4, Bowman County only plays one game in the first week of the season. Many teams play Tuesday and Saturday.

“We actually weren’t the team that had the bye originally,” Yale said. “Another team had it, they didn’t want it and we volunteer to take it. … I’m very satisfied with the schedule we have.”

Bowman County Bulldogs

Head coach: Greg Yale (1st season)

Last season: 1-7, missed the playoffs

Returning starters: Tel Lardy, Sr., RB/DB; Bondon Scott, Sr., RB/LB; Jordan Bloomgren, Sr., OL/DL; Jason Schade, Sr., OL/DL.

Losses: John Yale, QB; Hunter Lanchbury, WR/FS; Erik Bloomgren, OL/DL; Michael Longland, TE/LB; Jorge Riquelme, RB/LB; Levi Holser, OL/DL.