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Football, enrollment both have been on the rise recently at Mayville State

Mayville State running back Homer Reed takes to the air to avoid a defender Saturday during the Comets' matchup against Waldorf College at Mayville. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald 1 / 6
Mayville State running back Homer Reed takes to the air to avoid two defenders Saturday during the Comets' matchup against Waldorf College at Mayville. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald 2 / 6
Mayville State quarterback Michael Barron drops back into the pocket and scans the field for an open receiver Saturday during the Comets' matchup against Waldorf College at Mayville. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald 3 / 6
Mayville State running back Homer Reed looks for a hole in the defensive line Saturday during the Comets' matchup against Waldorf College at Mayville. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald 4 / 6
Despite the rain, an umbrella-shrouded crowd turned out at the Mayville State vs. Waldorf College game. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald 5 / 6
Mayville State fans sit on a couch in the west endzone Saturday during the Comets' game against Waldorf College. Photo by Kile Brewer/Grand Forks Herald 6 / 6

MAYVILLE, N.D. — In recent years, Mayville State’s enrollment and its football team have been on the upswing.

College officials anticipate a record enrollment for the fifth consecutive year when classes start Monday.

However, the latest news for the football team wasn’t nearly as rosy, as the Comets fell 48-0 to Waldorf (Iowa) College on Saturday in its season opener.

The Comets turned heads in 2013 by going 7-4, its first winning record since 1990, raising hopes of turning around the university’s football fortunes. Having 128 players on its roster – one of the reasons for the school’s enrollment bump – offered more hope.

However, a talent-enriched Waldorf squad from last year’s one-win season and recent Mayville developments contributed to the rout.

“Waldorf clearly retooled from its 1-9 record a year ago,” Mayville Coach John Haines said. “We all got humbled.”

Another factor was having a last-minute replacement at coach. Haines arrived in Mayville on Aug. 1, just three days before practice started. He replaced Derek Schlieve, who resigned in late July to take a coaching job in Texas after turning around the football culture, according to college officials.

Then, earlier in the week, the NAIA deemed several Comets ineligible, including their starting quarterback, leaving a first-year player at the controls.

“It’s just a technicality; they’ll be eligible next week,” Haines said.

With school not in session and summer still looming, the crowd estimate was 400. The number was in sharp contrast to last season, when the success led to crowds approaching 2,000.

Intermittent drizzle added more gloom to the Comets’ day that included providing slippery turf that caused a kickoff returner to slip to the turf at his own 1-yard line. It clearly wasn’t their day.

Despite the woes, Mayville President Gary Hagen knew good news was coming on Monday’s first day of classes.

“We’re guessing 1,100 students, which compares to being in the 700s in 2006 when I started as president,” Hagen said. “Naysayers and consultants were saying we’d drop to 500.

“Athletics not only add students, but they also keep other students active rather than just staying in their dorm. There is more pride on any campus that excels at something, like UND and its hockey.”

Despite the gloom of the day and the scoreboard, MSU sophomore Josh DeWitt of Lino Lakes, Minn., stayed until the end, watching from his couch that was carried into the bowl and planted just outside the south end zone.

“No matter the score, it’s still kind of cool to sit by the end zone and be a super fan,” he said.

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