Veterans on the roster of the North Dakota State Bison have certainly come to know the city of Frisco quite well, particularly Frisco early in the calendar year.
There’s no question many of the older players on the team feel like Frisco is a second home, and the expression “Fargo South” is used freely by fans. As junior wide receiver Darrius Shepherd said, getting back to Frisco is always an accomplishment, and the reward is a top-notch environment for a chance at a national title.
“It’s a special feeling being here with the team in the championship game, and it’s really exciting to get down to Frisco, it’s like another home for us, but it’s a really cool environment and we’re excited to play,” he told HERO Sports during media day ahead of the championship game.
Senior tight end Jeff Illies told reporters that he’d be thinking “It’s good to be back,” as he took the field for the last time in his career, noting that over the past few weeks he’s had a lot of “lasts” — whether it was the last practice in the FargoDome or the last practice of the season here in Frisco.
Junior punter Jackson Koonce said the long layoff between the semi-finals and the championship game doesn’t change how the team approaches the title game, but also noted it’s nice to have players on the team who have made this trip many times and know exactly what to expect.
“It’s a little bit different, just the three weeks of run-up to the game,” Koonce said. “The whole team is locked in the whole time, but we try to approach it the same way we would any other game. That process has worked well in the past, and it’s working well now. The guys who’ve been here four or five years, they got this down to a science.”
Among the many players for the Bison who’ve been to multiple championships is fifth-year senior long snapper James Fisher, an All-American and a three-time starter in the FCS Championship. He’s been through Frisco enough that as Koonce said, he’s got it down to a science. That doesn’t mean he told his young teammates making their first trip exactly what to expect this week.
“They ask questions, and it’s nice to inform them about what’s going on, but it’s also nice to make it kind of a surprise, too,” Fisher said. “The first experience is great, it’s really eye-opening to come to facilities like this.”
Once the game hits, Fisher said he’s going to use his experience in this game to lead by example.
“As far as the game goes, I don’t think it’s too much more talking to them about anything specific, but maybe I have to lead in how I act,” he said. “It’s mostly about how I act and lead through my actions to stay calm and focused on everything.”
Fisher and the other veterans on the team hope their experience and the measured approach to championship week will result in a sixth FCS title in seven years for the Bison.