New 2A team called the Buffalo Ridge Bison
Facing the reality of the dwindling number of athletes and funding available to smaller schools in Iowa, The Galva-Holstein Pirates and the Schaller-Crestland Wildcats have joined forces. The two squads will pool their players and resources in football this year and into the future.
Scrapping both teams' names, uniforms and mascots, the new consolidated team will be known as the Buffalo Ridge Bison. The Bison will be led by co-head coaches Butch Faulkenberry, formerly of Galva-Holstein, and Dale Tokheim of Schaller-Crestland. Assistants Tyler Phelan, Jeff DeHaan, and Brandon Turnquist round out the Bison coaching staff.
The merger of the the schools will push the Bison into class 2A where they will be one of the smallest teams playing based upon enrollment.
The Bison schedule includes the likes of Cherokee, Okoboji and Humboldt. Fall camp began Monday morning with 42 players on the field, but a few were missing due to vacations or other reasons.
"I was excited about the merger," said Faulkenberry. "I am one hundred percent for it. Our numbers at Galva-Holstein just aren't what they used to be. We were losing depth, and those low numbers were going to pose some serious issues for us. Now we go join up with Schaller-Crestland and double our numbers. That means more JV games and more freshmen games as well. We'll have more depth and experience at every level. The biggest thing is that we've just got to get our teams coming together as soon as possible."
Looking at the numbers, the merger makes perfect sense, but two teams with two sets of coaches joining together can make for a difficult situation.
Both Tokheim and Faulkenberry recognized this possible dilema early and have been working to bridge the gap and make this transition period as easy as possible for the coaching staff.
"I'm really excited for the opportunity to work with Dale and his staff," said Faulkenberry. "I'll be in charge of the defense and Dale will take care of the offense. He's a very positive guy. He'll bring a lot of energy and knowledge to the program. He was deployed last year with the National Gaurd, but he and I had a lot of e-mail contact while he's been gone. He was back this spring for ten days and we got together and talked coaching philosophy, staffing issues, practice plans, and everything else.
Ultimately, the success of the newly formed Bison squad is going to come down to the players and whether or not they can gel together. They are going to need to, and soon, as they face a higher class of competition than they have in their past seasons.
"Any time you raise the bar, you've got to work even harder," said the coach. "But if you don't raise the bar you're never going to get any better. We have to be more focused and more prepared now. We're going to have to be very disciplined. We have to know what to do to put ourselves in the position to make plays. We have to be fundamentally correct. Our camp is going to focus very heavily upon technique; footwork, head placement, shoulder placement. If we can execute those things, then we have an opportunity. It's all going to have to start with the little things."
The Bison have a difficult road ahead of them this football season, but Coach Faulkenberry likes what he saw in the first day of camp and has high hopes for the boys.
"I think these kids are going to be just fine," he stated. "They want to play football and they're happy to be out there. I saw a lot of excitement at the camp. They're all very eager to learn. They're hustling, working hard, and gelling as a team. These kids want to play and they want to win. We need everyone out there to lay it all out on the line for each other, like any quality team. We've got to believe in our system and believe in each other. If they keep coming with the same attitude and effort I've seen so far, we're going to compete."