Throughout his nearly four full decades of coaching high school football, Dan Imdieke never once thought he was in Fred Fridley's league.
Fridley is a former Watford City football coach who retired at the end of the 2013 season with 321 victories, nine state championships and seven other state title game appearances to his credit.
Imdieke still feels that way about Fridley, even after moving past the coaching legend into first place on North Dakota's all-time victories list. Imdieke's Linton-Hazelton-Moffit-Braddock Lions rallied to defeat Strasburg-Zeeland 36-22 in a 9-man Region 3 game in Strasburg to hand their veteran coach his 322nd career victory.
Imdieke and Fridley are the only North Dakota high school football coaches to have reached the 300-victory mark.
"When I started coaching (in 1977), Fred and the Watford City program were already well established. They were among the best in the state. Winning more games than Fred, or even being mentioned in the same sentence with him was the furthest thing from my mind," Imdieke said on Saturday. "But it's something that just happened. I stayed in coaching for all of these years, stayed in a good place, and the wins added up. It's an honor and a privilege to be in this position, but Fred is still the man as far as I'm concerned. I know and respect Fred, I coached against him, and we're good friends. I kind of wish we had stayed tied, but we won a big region game to break the tie and we have a few more games coming up that I hope we win."
Imdieke began his head coaching career at Linton High School in the fall of 1977. His first team went 5-3 after starting the season 0-2. Over the next 37 seasons, Linton and Linton-HMB teams produced 36 winning campaigns, numerous conference-region championships and playoff berths, 12 state title game appearances and five state titles (1980, 1990, 2000, 2002 and 2003). His 1980, 1990, 2000 and 2003 teams were undefeated.
The record-setting victory on Friday night was Linton-HMB's fifth in six games, assuring Imdieke of his 38th winning season.
Imdieke said quality assistant coaches and players, as well as the overwhelming support of the community helped make those 322 victories possible.
"You can't do something like that alone," he said. "I've had some great assistant coaches working along side of me, and I've had great athletes to work with. The kids are fired up about football here, and at the start of the season they come to practice ready to go. You need a lot of support, too. So many families can share in this, and that includes my family, especially my wife (Cathy)."
Linton-HMB trailed Strasburg-Zeeland 22-16 in the second quarter, but dominated the rest of the way, scoring 20 unanswered points. Both teams were 3-1 in region play coming in.
"It was a big win for us. The defense really stepped up after (Strasburg-Zeeland) went ahead and the offense kept making plays," Imdieke said. "We have a couple of tough ones left (in the regular season) with Napoleon(-Gackle-Streeter) and Central McLean. Hopefully, we'll win those two and get some momentum going for the playoffs."