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Historic DSU-Jamestown football matchup could be nearing its end

For many decades in the 1900s, their games were a fixture; tough and physical grind-it-out matchups with lots of running and not a whole lot of scoring.

The Nov. 10, 1932 edition of The Dickinson Press chronicled the scoreless tie between the University of Jamestown and Dickinson State. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)
The Nov. 10, 1932 edition of The Dickinson Press chronicled the scoreless tie between the University of Jamestown and Dickinson State. (Samuel Evers / The Dickinson Press)

For many decades in the 1900s, their games were a fixture; tough and physical grind-it-out matchups with lots of running and not a whole lot of scoring.

Dickinson State and Jamestown's first-ever football contest, in fact - played almost 88 years ago to the day, on Oct. 13, 1928 - set the tone for how the rivalry is viewed today.

According to The Press' archives, on DSU's first-ever "home-coming pow wow weekend," the Jimmies traveled to Dickinson State, then known as the "Savages," and won an 8-6 conference slugfest; the deciding play a safety in the final minute.

"The game, witnessed by a record crowd of fans many of whom were Normal alumni, proved to be one of the hardest fought and most interesting gridiron battles ever staged on a local field," wrote The Press in its Oct. 19, 1928, edition. "It was a snappy, hard fighting aggregation of 'Jimmies' that Coach Karl Erickson brought up from Jamestown."

First as conference foes in the North Dakota Collegiate Athletic Conference, then, in 2000 in the Dakota Athletic Conference, and after a couple of conference moves by both teams, again in the North Star Athletic Conference, the two teams have met a total of 78 times.

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The Blue Hawks - winners of the last eight matchups going back to 2007 - have the edge in the all-time series with a record of 44-33-1.

The one tie? A 0-0 thriller in 1932. It was a game that featured only eight first downs.

"The ball changed hands often as the passes were intercepted frequently," noted The Press. There was no overtime.

On they went - "The Locals" against the University of Jamestown; whether the first or final game of the season, the matchup has always meant something.

But, as officially announced Thursday, this rivalry now has a shelf life.

Today's matchup at 1 p.m. at the Biesiot Activities Center could be one of the school's final meetings.

Jamestown confirmed in a press conference this week the Jimmies' impending move to the Great Plains Athletic Conference, effective at the beginning of the 2018 season.

Next season will be their last in the NSAA, which means these two longtime foes, at least for the foreseeable future, have only two conference games left to play; a fact that disappoints Blue Hawks' coach Pete Stanton for several reasons.

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"For our program, it's unfortunate. It's been a longstanding rivalry," he said. "You have two teams from North Dakota that have played each other for so long, and now you're going to have that team playing down in Nebraska and Iowa. The fan interest - some of the other issues we had when we went to the Frontier Conference - are going to be there for them."

Along with the break up of a familiar and historic clash, Stanton said Jamestown's move will be disheartening from a practicality standpoint.

With about 200 miles separating the two teams, the Jimmies are DSU's closest NAIA college football opponent. Scheduling nonconference games can sometimes prove to be a hassle, Stanton said, so the Blue Hawks often play Jamestown twice a season, with one counting toward league standings and one technically a nonconference game.

But when Jamestown joins the GPAC, it will become its 12th member. As most NAIA teams generally schedule a maximum 11 games a season, even a nonconference game between DSU and the Jimmies seems unlikely.

Stanton said he still has every intention of working them into the schedule for 2018 and beyond, but whether the interest is mutual will come down to factors out of his control.

Meeting Nos. 79 and 80 will take place this year, with either one or two more installments coming next season. Beyond that is a mystery.

For now, though, DSU's focus is the immediate future and a chance to improve to 4-0 in the conference against a 1-5 Jamestown team today.

The homecoming matchup figures to be a big draw, just like the one 88 years ago. This one, though, may have a little more significance.

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"Who knows what's going to happen down the road," Stanton said. "Things can change; it's a long road down to Crete, Neb., to go play football games. It always means a lot when we play them, but it's definitely going to mean a little bit more now."

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