Feature photo by J. Alan Paul Photography
Engagement photos by Ajla Becirovic
The Sideline Story To The 2012 NDSU vs. Georgia Southern Football Game
As told by a cheerleader
My knees sank in the grass on the sideline next to the 30-yard mark. I was holding a “Let’s Go Eagles” sign and was silently praying as I looked intently toward the opposite end zone. We had lost the previous year in 2011, but this game was different, we were supposed to win. After a deafening fourth quarter, the Fargodome was silent.
Carla Metts, Georgia Southern cheerleader
The North Dakota State Bison were on the 5-yard line, and the scoreboard displayed Eagles 20, Bison 16. Everybody who was watching the game at home and in the stands was staring at a funny-shaped brown ball in hopes of making it to Frisco, Texas. With 3:05 left on the clock, the play began and in an instant, I heard the thunderous roar of the wrong crowd followed by a heart-wrenching cannon that seemed to be shooting at my heart. NDSU’s quarterback Brock Jensen had run the ball in for a touchdown and with a blocked 50-yard field goal, the game was over.
Trevor Gebhart, past NDSU’s wide receiver
I was in disbelief as I glowered at the loss on the scoreboard while standing on the sideline as the Fargodome cleared. It was an unlikely matchup, and we lost.
Nevertheless, we made our way back to Statesboro, Georgia, as I mulled over the thought that I would never get to be a cheerleader on the sidelines of Frisco, Texas.
It was an unlikely matchup — a very unlikely matchup. Georgia Southern and NDSU went head-to-head for the second year in a row, in the semi-final game for a chance to play for the FCS Championship.
Carla Metts and Trevor Gebhart
Earlier that November, I pulled up to Paulson Stadium and walked into Gene Bishop Fieldhouse with my cheerleading coach and the rest of those associated with Eagle football, to watch the selection show for the 2012 FCS playoff bracket. I was standing next to the head coach’s wife when our side of the bracket popped up on the screen. After looking over all the names, I couldn’t help but feel disdain for the NDSU Bison who were also placed on the same side of the bracket, again. After losing miserably in 2011, I was certain that I didn’t want to go back to Fargo. As those words ran through my head, our head coach’s wife said, “I sure hope we don’t have to go all the way back to Fargo this year.”
A few weeks later, after scoring 28 points in the fourth quarter against Old Dominion, we found ourselves doing just that — we were heading back to Fargo. Though the Eagles were more prepared for the earsplitting atmosphere and to put up a strong fight, it wasn’t enough when the clock ran out.
It was a very unlikely matchup, but I’m not referring to just the semi-final football game now.
I was sitting on the bus after the game sulking with the rest of Eagle Nation, and I was writing, which I always did before and after games. I left a post on my Facebook to help console myself and Eagle fans. I started the post by saying, “You may remember the jersey numbers, maybe even the names…” But the thing is, I did not really remember the names or the numbers, and that became evident when we arrived back in Statesboro the next morning after the game. When our plane landed, I began checking all social media sites like so many people my age do, and I noticed that a Bison football player had followed me on Twitter. I was a little taken aback, just because it is not like an opposing cheerleader’s name is easy to find. Like the Bison, we don’t have our names on the back of our uniforms. We rarely even have our names in programs. Although I thought it was a little strange, I decided to “follow” the player back. And that is really the end of my story — at least for another month.
Alabama and Notre Dame were playing for the National Championship Jan. 7, 2013, and as the duty of a football fan, cheerleader and coach’s daughter, it was only natural to absorbedly watch the game. Sam Houston State and NDSU’s game had been on two days before, but I didn’t watch the game, as it would have been grueling to watch a game that we almost were in.
Photo by Darren Gibbins
Nevertheless, on the night of the FBS National Championship, I got a notification on Twitter which isn’t uncommon, but the Bison player that had followed me a month ago sent me a message, and that was uncommon.
“Our whole team is in agreement that GSU is the best team we’ve played by a long shot.”
After reading that, I was a little perplexed because most football players would not spend much time talking about a rival football team, much less give a compliment. I was still on Christmas break, so messaging him back wasn’t going to hurt me. I would probably never hear from him again, much less ever see him. I messaged back.
Photo by Ajla Becirovic
“Really? Well, I’m sure they would take that as a very big compliment. Thank you, congrats again. At least we lost to the national champions.”
You would think that would be the end of my story — but it isn’t. Turns out we messaged each other back throughout the Alabama/Notre Dame game. We messaged each other the rest of the week and then the rest of two weeks. Three weeks went by, and I found myself driving to the Savannah, Georgia, airport to pick up and physically meet one of Fargo’s beloved Bison players. You would think that would be the end of my story — but it still isn’t.
Now I live in Fargo and though I am still an Eagle at heart, I am also a Bison fan. It is really hard not to be if you’re a football fan. It’s even harder when your boyfriend is still on the team.
Photo by Ajla Becirovic
Now Fargo is a new home for me, and I’ve met so many wonderful people on my adventure up North: Fargo residents, Minnesota natives, Bison fans, and the special people in between whose journeys have also brought them to Fargo. That’s a pretty cool story in and of itself.
So whether you’re a football fan, a Bison fan or just a believer in direction and hope: Don’t count all your losses as true losses, all the unlikely matchups as mistakes, and all your moments on the sideline as unimportant. Because just past a loss there could be a bigger win, just past unlikely matchups there could be a perfect match, and just past the sideline, there could be the most thrilling adventure of your life.
It feels a little bit like the week before a big game for Trevor Gebhart and me. We have our travel plans in place with our itinerary set from Monday through Thursday, including a scheduled “walk-through” on Friday, all in preparation for a spectacular event on Saturday—our wedding day. When our story, “Unlikely Match,” first appeared in Bison Illustrated in November 2014, we were both living in Fargo, North Dakota. Trevor graduated from NDSU that December, topping his senior season off with the four-peat that January.
We are now living in Trevor’s hometown, Sioux Falls, South Dakota. Trevor is a sales leader for Pepsi in Sioux Falls and stays connected to football by coaching at the Riggs Football Academy. He is also on the Howard Wood Dakota Relays Board. I currently work at Midco Sports Network covering high schools and colleges in the Upper Midwest region as a reporter and producer. Although we are both retired college athletes, we can’t seem to get away from our love of sports, and we are definitely okay with that!
After four years of dating, both long distance and in Fargo and Sioux Falls, we are very ready for our big day on April 15. Our Georgia Southern and North Dakota State families will finally all get to meet each other in my hometown Dublin, Georgia, and for the first time ever in that matchup, both sides will be cheering for the same team.
About the Author
A Georgia Southern Cheerleader
I cheered for Georgia Southern University from 2010 to 2014. I cheered inside the Fargodome in 2011 and 2012 during the FCS Playoffs. A North Dakota State University football player messaged me on Twitter back in 2012. We did not know each other at either of the two football games. This means we were no more than 70 yards apart for two years in a row before we ever knew of each other’s existence. We have been dating for over a year and a half now. After I graduated from Georgia Southern University, I moved to Fargo so we could begin a more normal geographical relationship. Though football will always be a commonality that binds us, our adventure outside the Fargodome continues.