Nov. 18—NEW ROCKFORD, N.D. — Connor Knatterud received a pretty fun text a couple of days ago.
"I found out I was named to the All-State team by one of my mom's friends," Knatterud said. "She actually texted me congratulations on being named to All-state before I even knew about it."
Knatterud was one of five athletes out of New Rockford-Sheyenne-Maddock who were named to the 2023 9-man Football All-State Team. Other area athletes named to the team were Gunner Thielges and Owen Lesko of LaMoure/Litchville-Marion and Gentry Richter of Linton/HMB.
"I think we had five players named to all-state because we were a unique team," Knatterud said. "Every team is going to have one or maybe two studs but we had multiple different studs for different positions. If you had a game plan to stop someone we would hit you with someone else."
Knatterud got to play his entire senior season — a privilege he didn't get as a junior.
In 2022 Knatterud only played until Sept. 23 when an unfortunate hit to the head sidelined him with a severe concussion for the rest of the season. Still, he managed 563 rushing yards for an average of 93.83 yards per game. He was responsible for scoring nine touchdowns.
The senior did more than that this year — while also matching up against some of the best players in the state.
Knatterud had the privilege of playing against many of the other 9-man All-State honorees including Nate Tarstad, a first-team offensive lineman out of North Prairie.
Tarstad was named the 2023 9-man Senior Athlete of the Year.
"He was tough to play against because of how much heart he had and how big he was," Knatterud said of Tarstad. "You could try to game plan around him but he would always ruin your plans."
The Rockets defeated Tarstad and the Cougars 36-34 on Sept. 8. Overall, the Rockets ended the season at 10-1.
"One last thing I would like to say about my football season is that I am proud of my teammates," Knatterud said. "The other four (all-staters) worked their butts off to get to where we were and I couldn't be more proud of them. Our team would not have made it as far as we did if we hadn't worked together and had fun on and off the field."
Connor Kosiak was part of the reason Knatterud's storybook season ended.
Kosiak, a star running back for South Border, was selected to the first-team, all-state offense roster.
"I've always hoped I was good enough to make it one day," Kosiak said. "It's pretty cool knowing some of the coaches saw my abilities and thought I was good enough to make it. Huge thanks to my linemen — Daniel Schumacher, Clay Jacob, Collin Goettle, Trevor Schmidt and Luke Piatz. Without them, I wouldn't have gotten this award.
"A lot of kids play hard and are really good," he said. "But football is a team sport and without a really good team, you won't get very far. That doesn't mean some players aren't good — they just might not have had a great team."
South Border had a great team.
The Mustangs had five players selected to the 2023 9-man all-state team. Among them were Schumacher, a senior linebacker, Cole Stock, Levi Buchholz and Berkley Frantz. The five all-staters helped to lead the Mustangs to the Dakota Bowl for the first time in program history.
South Border went 9-0 through the regular season to punch their ticket to the state playoffs for the second straight season. The Mustangs went on to defeat Hettinger County 28-24 in the state quarterfinals and beat New Rockford-Sheyenne/Maddock 32-28 in the state semis.
"It is such an awesome experience," Kosiak said of getting to the championship game. "A lot of preparation and hard work went into the week. It was awesome seeing the field for the first time. Walking out onto the field that first time was amazing. The fans were electric and it was cool seeing myself on the big screen."
The Mustangs fell 16-8 to North Prairie in the championship but the awards kept coming for the program. Head coach Evan Mellmer was named the NDHSCA Coach of the Year.
"Mellmer became head coach of the team last year," Kosiak said. "So in Mellmer's two years being head coach, and third year coaching football ever, he took his team to a Dakota Bowl. That is why he deserved the award.
"I was so blessed to experience everything that happened this season," he said. "I couldn't have asked for a better season, a better group of guys, or better coaches. The memories of this year will be remembered forever."