Cavalier football coach Sandy Laxdal says 'it's been a great ride' as he retires after 13 years with the Tornadoes

Cavalier coach Sandy Laxdal hugs Daniel Hinkle and other Tornado players after losing to Linton H/M/B in the 9-man championship game. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Cavalier football coach Sandy Laxdal contemplated retirement a year ago but the Tornadoes' senior class coaxed one more year with the program.

So on Friday, when Cavalier lost 32-24 to Linton-HMB in the North Dakota 9-man state championship game, Laxdal's career with the Tornadoes came to a close.

"The kids knew pretty early, before we even played a game in the preseason," Laxdal said. "I didn't want it to get out there and make it public for everybody. We didn't talk about it much in the playoffs until our assistants said this is his last game, let's go out with a bang and get one."

Laxdal coached Cavalier for 13 seasons, finishing with a record of 120-25. He led the Tornadoes to four Dakota Bowls and two state championships (2013 and 2014).

"It's just being part of a team effort with that," Laxdal said. "I've got not only great players but great assistants and great parent support. Cavalier will support football and that program. It's known across the state as a football town. We have the kids with great buy-in."


After legendary Cavalier coach Rod Oksendahl retired in 2006 after 28 seasons and four state championships, the Tornadoes went through a transition of two other head coaches before Laxdal took over.

"I have nothing but great memories of it," Laxdal said. "It's a real special place in my heart for all the kids I've coached and worked with. It's been a great ride for me. We've had great success and to be a small part of that was a great time. It's a joy to go to practice and work with these kids."

Laxdal is at retirement age, he said, and will step down also as head coach of the Cavalier girls basketball team after this season.

Laxdal is unsure if he'll be done as principal and athletic director at Cavalier.

"If I decide to retire, I don't think I'll get out of education," he said. "I'll do something with kids and building relationships.

"I've been coaching for 30 years, and I thought that was a milestone."

Earlier this year against New Rockford, Laxdal earned his 150th career football coaching win. With a few more during the girls basketball season, he's nearing 400 overall.

Laxdal didn't know if he'd be making the hire for a new football coach in Cavalier, although he said he has capable assistants including offensive coordinator Mitch Greenwood.


"I've been really blessed and fortunate to be head coach of the Cavalier football program for 13 years," Laxdal said. "I appreciate all of the support."

Miller has covered sports at the Grand Forks Herald since 2004 and was the state sportswriter of the year in 2019 and 2022.

His primary beat is UND football but also reports on a variety of UND sports and local preps.

He can be reached at (701) 780-1121, or on Twitter at @tommillergf.
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