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Michelle Turnberg, Published November 18 2011

Turnberg: Football fans' small-town pride swells

Today is a very big day for my hometown of Dawson, Minn.

The Dawson-Boyd Blackjacks are playing in the Minnesota state high school football tournament semifinal game at the Metrodome. Kickoff is at 10:30 this morning, and my guess is just about all of the 1,540 residents will be there.

Perhaps you have to be from a small town to understand how big of a day this is, but for students, alumni, parents and residents … this is as big as it gets.

Sports have always been big at DBHS, and over the years there have been some very good athletes go on to play in the Big Ten collegiate athletic conference, the National Basketball Association and the Olympics. But we have never had a team play in the state football tournament.

My dad coached football at DB for more than 30 years. There were years that we were close to the tournament, but never made it. This is the year.

You can feel that small town pride everywhere you go in Dawson.

I was just home visiting last weekend and all over town there were signs and banners for the football team. It was what everyone was talking about at the pot luck after church and on countless Facebook postings this week. Everywhere you look people are wearing their Blackjack sweatshirts. I even pulled out my old letter jacket out of mothballs. There is a lot of excitement surrounding the football team and countless people are proud of what these kids have accomplished.

Today we’re a small school on a big stage.

The great thing about growing up in a small town is that everyone has to be involved to make things happen. You can’t just play football; you also play basketball and run track, and you’re a member of band, choir, the one act play and student council. Growing up, it never occurred to us to not be involved. It’s not like the big metro schools, or even Fargo schools where athletes “specialize.”

These small school kids have grown up together throwing the football on the playground or in neighborhood backyards in the fall and shooting hoops in the winter.

I grew up with a lot of their parents. I played basketball with the running back’s mom, ran track and cross country with the quarterback’s mom and went to high school with the coach.

When I look in the stands today I’ll see hundreds of people I know, and I’m sure this game will be more exciting to me than any professional football, basketball or baseball game I’ve been to.

Small town pride runs deep. Saturday morning, if you’re anywhere near the Metrodome you’ll be able to hear: “We are the Blackjacks, the mighty mighty Blackjacks … .”

Good luck, boys. We’re proud of you. Now go do work.

Michelle Turnberg writes a weekly column in SheSays.