DICKINSON, N.D. — Pete Stanton joked that his Dickinson (N.D.) State Blue Hawks are an adopted Montana football team.
After all, Stanton is a Baker native, and his DSU playoff roster includes 27 Montanans. Four of those players — Devin Schwanz of Plentywood, Cain Boschee of Kalispell Glacier, and Jeff Fisher and Jordan Walker of Baker — earned first- or second-team all-conference honors in the North Star Athletic Association.
“(Montana is) a tremendous football state. The talent level is very good. People just care about it,” Stanton said. “The other thing we look at in recruiting-wise, is there’s just a lot of good people along with being good players, and guys that are hard-nosed players that understand what it takes to be successful. I think a lot of that credit goes to the high school coaches and the communities of Montana.”
Two of those coaches are Stanton’s brothers: Jim at Billings Central and Rob at Billings West. Both claimed Montana high school state championships last week. Rob led the Golden Bears to a thrilling Class AA state championship win over Kalispell Flathead, and Jim’s Rams won a hard-fought battle over Hamilton for the Class A state championship.
Pete capped the Stantons’ fun weekend on Saturday when his Blue Hawks scored a late touchdown to upset No. 5 Northwestern (Iowa) College in the first round of the NAIA football playoffs.
“We made some calls and did some texting and things afterward,” Pete said. “It’s just a lot of things going on and everything pretty busy. We had some family members — my sister and her husband were in Hamilton, and some of the family members were in Billings, and my mom and wife and this side were over at our game down there, so everybody was pretty split up. Good thing for social media: They all stayed up with each other and were able to visit a little bit.”
In that 14-6 win over Northwestern, DSU’s first playoff win since 2004, Tyger Frye, a Billings Senior High School graduate, was one of the key components on offense, catching eight passes for 112 yards. Frye was named DSU’s offensive MVP of the game, adding another accolade to an impressive season. Frye, a 5-foot-11, 170-pound sophomore, has 62 catches this fall, a DSU single-season record.
“He caught a couple passes and it looked like we were going to be short on some first downs, and he was able to maneuver and get two or three key first downs going into the wind,” Stanton said of Frye’s performance last week. “And then, of course, he caught a long pass on them, too, that was a big play for us. So he’s been really good. If you look at Tyger, he’s a great route runner and just really good as far as finding space and having a good feel, and really glad we have him.”
On the other side of the ball, the Blue Hawks have a loaded secondary. Jay Liggins and Derick VandeBossche earned all-conference honors alongside Boschee. Liggins had a magnificent game against Northwestern, intercepting four passes, one of which he returned to the 10-yard line to set up DSU’s game-sealing touchdown.
Boschee has long been a star in the NSAA. He’s thrice earned all-conference recognition and has been a second-team all-American. Boschee has 23 career interceptions, one off the Dickinson State program record.
“We believe (Boschee’s) got seven interceptions for touchdown returns, which is a school record that will never get broken. It’s maybe some type of national record to have seven interception returns for touchdowns,” Stanton said. “He’s as good as there is, as far as being a great athlete, but a tremendous person. He’s a scholar-athlete and honor student, and he’s just been a joy to have him over here.”
Boschee, Liggins and the Blue Hawk defense will have their hands full on Saturday when they face Kansas Wesleyan in the second round of the playoffs. The Coyotes have one of the top offenses in the NAIA, ranking No. 2 in pass efficiency, rushing offense and scoring offense. Quarterback Johnny Feauto has 39 touchdown passes and just four interceptions this season, and running back Demarco Prewitt has 2,070 rushing yards and 32 touchdowns.
Dickinson State, meanwhile, hangs its hat on its defense, ranking sixth in pass defense efficiency and 10th in scoring defense per game.
“There’s a team, until Sunday night, you didn’t have any idea about them,” Stanton said. “We’re just really looking forward to another opportunity. I think one of the things that happened to us this year a little bit, we had some injuries for about four or five games that really set us back, and we weren’t at full strength. We had a bye at the end of the season that really got us back to full strength. That was huge, too, in that playoff game, really having all of our parts in place. That’s what we’re looking for this week, too, is we’ve got everybody back and just looking for a good game.”
No. 15 Dickinson State (9-2) and No. 6 Kansas Wesleyan (12-0) kick off at noon (MT) Saturday at Salina, Kan. A live web stream of the game will be available here.