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The Beach Buccaneers are going to get awful familiar with Salem Sue, the giant Holstein cow overlooking Interstate 94 at New Salem. 

The Bucs will see the venerable landmark six times (three late at night as they pass by) in a matter of weeks as they travel across the state to play Region 4 nine-man football games.

Traditional two-year restructuring by the North Dakota High School Activities Association left Beach’s nearby opponents like Richardton-Taylor, New Salem-Almont-Glen Ullin and Shiloh Christian in 11-man football. They were replaced by teams east of the Missouri River like Strasburg-Zeeland, South Border (Wishek-Lehr-Ashley) and Napoleon-Gackle-Streeter.

 Taking long bus rides for Friday night football games is just part of high school football. Taking long bus rides to nearly the same locations for region football games on back-to-back weekends is, well, a tough schedule to say the least. Beach is accustomed to that, said 14-year veteran coach Mike Zier.

“Really, we’ve been taking long trips for years,” said Zier, whose team is off to a surprising 3-0 start. “There was a time when Divide County (Crosby) was in our region. We did trips to Des Lacs-Burlington and Kenmare.”

Zier said the biggest surprise is where his new opponents are located. Five teams in the region are east of the Missouri River, meaning twice in one year and three times in another, the Bucs are going to travel at least 200 miles for region games.

But Zier said he understands the tough spot reorganizing the region puts the North Dakota High School Activities Association in. They are not the villains for the region, the schedule nor the travel.

 “We talked about trying to break up the long trips, but we thought it would be easier just to draw and let the chips fall where they may,” Zier said. “People are just surprised by the locations of these schools.”

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Zier said the only other option would be to place Beach in a region to the north.

“The north is mostly two-lane highways. East is mostly four-lane,” Zier noted.

Beach made the 460-mile round trip to Strasburg-Zeeland last week and came away a 36-6 winner. It makes a 510-mile round trip to the South Border game this week in Wishek. Then, after two home games, the Bucs make another 460-mile round trip to Napoleon.

Next year, the Bucs will go to Kidder County (Steele) and Linton-HMB. Zier said the only one of the schools the Bucs has every been to was Linton for a home-and-home series 14 years ago.

That’s a lot of time on the road, and Zier has had to make some scheduling adjustments. For these games, the team actually eats lunch on the road since they leave before lunch at school, Zier said. They also make another stop somewhere along the way to stretch.

“It’s like being in college,” Zier said. “It absolutely helps (team bonding), especially when you have a team that gets along so well."

 “The thing that makes this team special is the kids buy into their role. We’re in this together,” Zier said. 

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