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Bison fans in Bismarck gear up for Frisco; NDSU seeks 9th FCS title since 2011

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When thousands of North Dakota State University football fans fill Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, the Thomas family of Bismarck will be among the sea of green and yellow.

The Bison on Saturday are seeking their ninth Football Championship Subdivision title. They kick off against Montana State at 11 a.m. And though this will be their ninth Frisco game in the past 12 years, some Bison fans like the Thomases are getting to experience the game in person for the first time.

Bison defensive end Brayden Thomas, a 2016 Bismarck High graduate, will have a cheer squad of about 30 strong down in Texas, none of whom have been to Frisco before.

His mother, Melissa Thomas, said the Bismarck family hasn't really missed a game since Brayden started playing football in the third grade. They watched and cheered as he went on to play at the University of Mary, Minnesota State-Mankato and NDSU.

Father Wes Thomas said that while the family liked the Bison well enough as many North Dakotans do, they never really watched any NDSU games before Brayden started playing for the Fargo school. Even Brayden’s sister Whitney, a current NDSU student, didn’t start going to the games until her brother came.

“We were always watching him play football somewhere," Wes Thomas said. "We were either Demon fans, or Marauders fans, or Mavericks fans, so we really just didn't have time to watch the Bison."

The last championship game they went to was in 2019 when the Mavericks -- who compete in a lower college division than NDSU -- lost to West Florida. The Thomas family members have their fingers crossed for a win this time around.

Just as they still root for the Marauders and Mavericks, the Thomas family will still be Bison fans after Brayden moves on.

“We know so many kids and players that are returning now and parents that we’ve become close to,” Melissa Thomas said. “We’ve met so many great families and we’ll be friends forever; that's kind of what football does.”

Returning fan

Retired North Dakota National Guard Maj. Gen. David Sprynczynatyk, of Bismarck, also will be among the Bison crowd Saturday.

He's been following NDSU football since he went to the school more than 50 years ago. He has been in Frisco for six of NDSU's eight FCS national championship games since 2011. He had to miss one because of work and had to stream another while traveling overseas.

“It’s great to have a North Dakota team playing in the national championship. That brings a lot of interesting focus on NDSU and the state,” Sprynczynatyk said. “It’s just great to be in the stands and cheering the Bison on.”

Besides being his alma mater, NDSU is where Sprynczynatyk met and married his wife. They first lived together on campus in married student housing.

While he usually goes to the game with his wife or daughter, Sprynczynatyk this time is taking his son-in-law as a 40th birthday present. He said he's looking forward to the perfect football weather -- Frisco's high on Saturday should be around 60 degrees -- and hoping for another championship for the Bison.

“My favorite part is just the level of enthusiasm of the fans and being able to be a part of it,” he said. “It’s a fantastic feeling to be there, especially when the Bison win.”

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