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Thompson football players the offspring of small-town athletes

Thompson football head coach Brady Schwab, center, works with his team during practice Wednesday afternoon. Thompson will face New Salem/Glen-Ullin Friday afternoon for the North Dakota 9-man championship at the Fargodome. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)1 / 5
The sun sets over the practice field Wednesday as Thompson's football team gets ready to face off against New Salem/Glen Ullin Friday afternoon for the North Dakota 9-man championship at the Fargodome. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)2 / 5
Clay Odenbach (left) and Hayden Overby work on drills during practice Wednesday afternoon in Thompson, N.D. Thompson will face New Salem/Glen Ullin Friday afternoon for the North Dakota 9-man championship at the Fargodome. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)3 / 5
Thompson, N.D., football assistant coach Jason Beilke holds up a clipboard showing the offense what play they'll be running during practice Wednesday afternoon. Thompson will face New Salem/Glen Ullin Friday afternoon for the NOrth Dakota 9-man championship at the Fargodome. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)4 / 5
Thompson football head coach Brady Schwab prepares to blow the whistle on the drill during practice Wednesday afternoon. (Jesse Trelstad/Grand Forks Herald)5 / 5

THOMPSON, N.D.—You can take the boy out of the small town, but you can't take the small town out of the boy. Or so the adage goes.

It certainly applies when it comes to the Thompson High School football team, which is playing for the state 9-man title against New Salem/Glen-Ullin at noon today at the Fargodome. The Tommies' roster is plump full of players whose parents attended area small-town schools in their youth and now want the same opportunities and experiences for their children for work-and-play inside and outside the classroom.

And Thompson Public Schools and its athletics have benefited from it.

One example is sophomore Marcus Hughes, son of Jeremy and Beth Hughes. Jeremy was a high school athlete at Neche, N.D., and Beth (Koppang) was an all-state basketball player at Mayville-Portland before they met at Mayville State in North Dakota.

Another example is sophomore Hayden Overby, whose father Brian led his Northwood, N.D., basketball team to the state tournament as a senior and his mother, Joey (Spanier) of Edmore, N.D., also was a high school basketball standout.

Then there's Nicholas Reck, another sophomore contributor whose family lives close to 32nd Avenue South after their move from Neche, N.D., and the North Border School District.

"We wanted and received the same small school, the same feeling in Thompson, as in the North Border School District, which was awesome," Reck's father, Scott, said. "We wanted a small school district, for academics and the high quality of everything. We're all very fortunate."

Jason Schwabe, Thompson High School's principal and athletic director, has heard it often.

"It seems all of our athletes' parents are Class B transplants," he said. "Not many were born and raised here in Thompson. But the parents want the same experiences for their kids as they had."

Schwabe grew up in Winnipeg and he "didn't want that experience for my kids." After playing baseball and football at Mayville State, he was drafted by the Toronto Argonauts of the Canadian Football League and briefly played there.

The principal also is the father of two of Thompson's more explosive players: quarterback Calen Schwabe and wide receiver Cadyn Schwabe.

With 36 players in grades 9 through 12, Thompson typically has more depth than other 9-man teams.

"That comes from our staff encouraging everyone to be part of something," Jason Schwabe said. "We have 90 percent of our students in sports, music or other extra-curriculars," he said. "We also have a broad range of activities for a school this size."

He also touts the advantage of having Grand Forks just 10 miles down the road: "We have the benefits of being close to shopping, movies and other things that the city offers."

Jeremy Hughes cited the "Class B culture," detailing the teachers, the opportunities for extra-curriculars and the support from large crowds.

Like other parents, Joey Overby said post-season football brings back memories from her youth in Edmore.

"It's fun growing up in a small town," she said. "Everyone wants to follow a successful team. And, if you do make it to a championship, the town shuts down.

"We're so proud of our kids. They're taking us on a fun ride."