- Associated Press - Thursday, September 18, 2014

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota State has made a habit in the last several years of slipping into Sioux Falls, South Dakota, and snatching a few key high school football players who might otherwise go to South Dakota State, South Dakota or another Football Championship Subdivision program.

This weekend, the Bison are facing one who got away in Montana’s standout senior, free safety Matt Hermanson.

The Bison, who take on the visiting Grizzlies in Saturday’s matchup of the first- and fourth-ranked FCS teams, have six players from Sioux Falls, which is 250 miles south of Fargo.

Two NDSU regulars - offensive guard Austin Kuhnert and wide receiver Trevor Gebhart - as well as freshman linebacker Dan Marlette played for Hermanson’s dad, Brian, at Sioux Falls Washington High School. And former NDSU head coach Craig Bohl, who left for Wyoming after last year’s third straight FCS title, pushed hard to land Matt Hermanson, offering him a scholarship when he was a junior.

“NDSU has kind of stolen a few guys from South Dakota,” Brian Hermanson said Thursday. “I know one of Craig’s priorities was to recruit Sioux Falls. … Even if we didn’t have a player he would stop in and ask about players in the state.”

But a change in coaching fortunes at NDSU played a key part in getting Matt Hermanson to Montana. Mike Breske, an assistant for the Bison for just one year in 2009 and Brian Hermanson’s college teammate at South Dakota State, moved to Montana in 2010 and, in essence, took Matt Hermanson with him.

“Mike and I have been friends for 30-some years and I think Matt felt comfortable at Montana,” said Brian Hermanson, who stepped down in 2013 after building Washington into a state power. “It has been a good fit for him. They have won a lot of games and he’s had a lot of success.”

Breske is now the defensive coordinator at Washington State.

Matt Hermanson, a three-year starter, entered this season with 239 career tackles, good for 29th in school history. He’s had a banner start to his senior season, second on the team with 23 tackles and No. 1 in solo stops with 12. He has two interceptions, a forced fumble and a quarterback sack.

Kuhnert said he’s excited for the high school reunion - which includes backup Montana cornerback Chris Parker, too - but there hasn’t been any contact among the former teammates.

“We have just been kind of keeping our ways and we’ll let the game talk for itself,” he said.

Perhaps no player on the Bison roster knows the Grizzlies better than offensive tackle Landon Lechler, whose hometown of Beach, North Dakota, is a mile from the Montana border. He was recruited early by the Grizzlies and faced some of their players in a Montana-North Dakota all-star high school football game.

“When I was growing up, CBS was on the Griz game and NBC was on the Bison game,” Lechler said. “It will be fun to get out there.”

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