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Kevin Schnepf, Published November 11 2010

Schnepf: Highway 13 sports pair of state football finalists in Wyndmere-Lidgerwood, Milnor-North Sargent

A homemade sign stuck in the ground goes mostly unnoticed by the traffic that whisks past Wyndmere on Highway 13 in southeast North Dakota.

The sign reads: “Good luck at state Dawgs.”

It’s directed at the Milnor-North Sargent Bulldog high school football team that will be playing for a Class A state championship Friday in Grand Forks.

Call it a neighborly gesture from the folks in Wyndmere – whose own football team, the Wyndmere-Lidgerwood Warbirds, will play for a

9-man state championship Friday in Grand Forks.

Small towns cherish these moments.

In this case, you have four small towns –seemingly within shouting distance of each other – chasing the same dream.

“Some people are calling it the Highway 13 Bowl,” said Milnor athletic director Ned Clooten.

Fifteen miles west of Wyndmere on Highway 13 sits Milnor. Go another 10 miles west on Highway 13 and you run into Gwinner.

The high schools in Milnor and Gwinner have co-oped in football since 1990. Wyndmere and Lidgerwood, located 13 miles south of Highway 13, have co-oped in football since 1987.

It’s a good bet that the majority of the 2,700 residents from these four towns will be in the Alerus Center on Friday cheering for each other. The Wyndmere-Lidgerwood bus is leaving early enough to watch Milnor-North Sargent at noon. Win or lose, Milnor-North Sargent fans will probably stick around and cheer on Wyndmere-Lidgerwood in its 3 p.m. game.

There’s another connection to all of this. Students from Wyndmere, Lidgerwood and Milnor are teammates in track and field and golf.

“I am just tickled,” said Lidgerwood athletic director Mark Wisnewski, who coached in Gwinner from 1979 to 1986. “I can’t tell you how happy I am for the people in all these towns.”

Wisnewski is especially happy for Jay Enderson and Ron Greenmyer – whom he coached when he was in Gwinner. Friday, Enderson and Greenmyer’s sons will play for Milnor-North Sargent.

“This is all a great example of what co-ops can do for the students and the communities,” Wisnewski said.

Back in 1987 when Lidgerwood discovered it didn’t have enough bodies to field a football team, it got quick approval to merge with Wyndmere. Little did anyone know that Wyndmere-Lidgerwood would win a state 9-man championship that year.

The co-op won another state title in 1992 and – in between being classified 9-man or 11-man – have routinely fielded winning teams. Long known as the Warriors, the co-op changed its nickname to Warbirds and its colors to black and gold this year.

“Because of that, there seems to be less dissension between the two communities,” said Warbirds football coach Scott Strenge, who lives in Lidgerwood and is the principal and athletic director in Wyndmere. “It’s more Wyndmere and Lidgerwood people hanging out more and more. There can be issues with co-ops, but this is a really positive climate right now.”

While the Warbirds football program routinely lists a state championship as a goal, the Milnor-North Sargent football program hasn’t been as lucky.

“This is untreaded territory for us,” said football coach Eric Olson, whose Bulldogs take on perennial power Velva on Friday. “Velva is treating this like any other year. It’s old news to them. But it’s a special feeling for us. It’s been a magic ride here.”

A ride that will take them to Grand Forks – via Highway 13.


Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

or at kschnepf@forumcomm.com