That 'grrrrr' you might be hearing just across the North Dakota border is coming from Ellendale.
And the Trinity Bible College Lions football team hopes to have a full roar going soon.
The Lions will kick off their season at 1 p.m. Saturday against Haskell Indian Nations University of Lawrence, Kan., at Bob Tatum Field in Ellendale. TBC is coming off a 3-8 season, one of its best in years.
I don't like to talk about wins and losses, said TBC graduate, athletic director and head football coach Dustin Morgan. I like to talk about how we competed in eight of 11 games last year. And that is huge, because you have to learn how to compete before you can win. This year, we are looking to build on what we accomplished last season.
Before last year's successes, TBC had only four wins in the previous five seasons. In 2005, Shawn Fury published his book (Keeping the Faith: In the trenches with college football's worst team) about the TBC football program, faith and finding small victories among big defeats.
We have a reputation to defeat as well, said Morgan. But we are debunking that, practice-by-practice, game-by-game and season-by-season.
Morgan is beginning his third season as coach. When he arrived, TBC had 12 players, but finished his first season with 49. Last year and this season, those numbers have increased to 60 or more in a school with 300 students. As a result, the Lions have outgrown their 1,900-square-foot weight room and a 550-square-foot locker room.
This is the college's 27th year of football, said Morgan. The first 15 years or so, the program had 25 or 30 kids out. In 1997 when I was a freshman at Trinity Bible, we only had 18 kids. So with 60 players on our football team, we have really outgrown our facilities.
So supporters of TBC are financing a face-lift of the Ray Ulmer Fieldhouse, which will include new offices, a new roof and a 9,000-square-foot addition that will house locker rooms and a state of the art weight room. A wet spring and summer has delayed the project's August completion date, but the work is moving forward. Plans call for a new floor for the gymnasium as well.
The high-energy Morgan is quick to credit others for TBC's successes on and off the field. The college administration, fellow staff members, the TBC athletes, students and coaches have all done a great job, he says. The community - Ellendale is a great place to live and I and my family love it here - also has come through with support and encouragement.
It is exciting, and God has been incredibly kind to us, said Morgan.
Retention is important for the TBC football program, and Morgan and his staff are making progress in that area as well. TBC is returning 32 players from last year's team. A lot of our starters will be sophomores, which will be good for the future as long as we can return them. If you want to win consistently on the college level, you are going to need juniors and seniors.
Trinity Bible College football is a member of the National Christian College Athletic Association. The Lions have four returning All-Americans, including 5-foot-9, 205-pound sophomore defensive back Cole White (Grass Valley, Calif.); 6-foot-2, 315-pound sophomore nose tackle Jose Casanova (Weslaco, Texas); and 6-foot-2, 300-pound senior left tackle Drew Carter (Philadelphia). TBC's 6-foot-2, 270-pound senior left guard Jordy Nunez (Miami) was an All-American in 2009.
White led the NCCAA in tackles last season with 153. He is just a machine, said Morgan, who was a two-time All-America wide receiver at TBC, spent a few years playing in the arena league, and got looks from CFL and NFL teams.
TBC will look to become a more consistent team this season. Ironically, the Lions led the NCCAA in both turnovers and take-aways last season. I have never see that before, said Morgan. We had too many turnovers. It was sloppy football. And it is hard to win when you turn the ball over like that.
But we are excited for our first game Saturday. Although we haven't beaten them in a while, we have had a competitive series against Haskell.
AUGUST - 27, Haskell Indian Nations University, 1 p.m.
SEPTEMBER - 3, at Presentation College at Swisher Field in Aberdeen, 1 p.m.; 10, at Mayville, 2 p.m.; 24, at Waldorf College in Forest City, Iowa, 1 p.m.; 26, JV game against Concordia College JV in Moorhead, 4 p.m.
OCTOBER - 1, at Dakota College in Botteneau, 2 p.m.; 8, Peru State, 1 p.m.; 15, Robert Morris (TBC homecoming), noon; 29, Dakota College, 2 p.m.