The seniors on the New Salem-Almont-Glenn Ullin football team knew Bowman County was going to be a big game. Not only was it the final game of the regular season, but also a chance at potentially extending the season if the team were to defeat the 5-and-2 Bulldogs. But with just over 24 hours before both teams were to hit the grass and go to war, the game was labeled a ‘no contest’ due to positive COVID-19 cases, and close contacts at New Salem. Just like that, the season was over for the Holsteins.
While news about the potential COVID outbreak had started late Wednesday night, the announcement of the ‘no contest’ did not come until early Thursday afternoon. It was in a group chat where senior tight end and linebacker Layne Duppong and senior wide receiver and cornerback Grant Gerving learned about the heartbreaking news.
“It’s a crappy way to end, especially as seniors,” Duppong said. “We didn’t really get a chance to grasp our last game or what we thought was going to be our last game … it just kind of sucks that COVID kinda took over the season and stuff like that, but it is what it is.”
Last spring the then seven juniors that played on the New Salem-Almont-Glenn Ullin football team saw the heartbreak from the class of 2020 senior athletes when the early pandemic postponed and eventually cancelled all spring sporting playoffs and seasons. Months later, now seniors themselves, they all hoped their season would not share the same fate. Sadly, it did.
Gerving talked about officially knowing what the class of 2020 felt like due to the sudden news.
“I feel their pain,” Gerving said. “It’s a little emotional, but what can you do now?”
Steve Kleinjan, the head coach of the Holsteins’ football team, talked about what the seniors meant to him and the entire Holsteins’ football program.
“They’ve been a great group of leaders, they’ve really done a nice job for us,” he said. “In their time here they’ve had the opportunity and experience of being down in the (FargoDome) and those kinds of things and they understood the tradition that we have and they did a great job of carrying the tradition on.”
The small group of schools dealt with previous COVID related situations earlier this season, losing a few players to quarantine. Kleinjan gave credit to the captains on the team, the seniors, in helping keep the team focused on winning and playing the best it could during those tough times.
“I just think they were really resilient and stuck together and worked hard and i’m just going to miss that leadership, that hardworking mentality and work ethic,” he said. "Those are the things that I will truly miss from these guys.”
Both Duppong and Gerving talked about the joy they had being able to play the game they love as a Holstein athlete.
“It was a good experience, getting new friends from another town and going over there every day and making us feel welcome and being part of the Holstein football family,” Duppong said. “It’s a great football team and they teach us really good things and it’s just very, very good over there.”
While both players agreed they will be forever be thankful playing with the other schools and will dearly miss playing the game with their teammates, including their senior class. Both mentioned there was one thing that they will truly miss about being Holstein football athletes that only Holstein football athletes know and love.
“Before every home game we go into a cow trailer and we run out of the cow trailer and that was supposed to be our symbol of being holsteins. Now we’re not going to be able to do that one last time and it is kinda heartbreaking,” Duppong said.
While the season may be over, both Duppong and Gerving hope the younger classes pays attention to the current events and learns to enjoy every game like it's their last.
“Really enjoy the season,” Duppong said. “You seriously never know when it’s going to end, especially because of coronavirus. Don’t take anything for granted.”