Nelson says Blue Jays are 'battle-tested' and ready for Friday

The Jamestown High School football team is hosting Grand Forks Red River on Aug. 26.

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Jared Schwanz, assistant football coach, works with some linemen during a Blue Jay practice on Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun
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JAMESTOWN — Excitement and anticipation is building with every tick of the clock for the Jamestown High School football team.

T-minus 36 hours to go.

"The kids have been working for this since last November," JHS head coach Bill Nelson said. "I wouldn't say there are any nerves — it's anxiousness, it's excitement. We have a good number of battle-tested young men who know what to expect.

"We've got another group of young men who are good players but they haven't been in this position yet. You are going to see a competitive football game. There is going to be a lot of flying around and excitement."

Emma Hillerud and Sydney Fisher have been competing in gymnastics since they were toddlers. The pair are the only seniors on this season's Blue Jay gymnastics team roster.

The Blue Jays are set to kick off their Class A schedule on Friday with a tilt against Grand Forks Red River. The chess match is slated to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Charlotte and Gordon Hansen Stadium.


"They do some good things," Nelson said of the Roughriders. "They've got a lot of good athletes all over the place. They've got a number of guys up front that they rotate, they want to put pressure on you defensively and offensively they want to run the ball.

"Our No. 1 goal is to stop the run so it will probably be their strength against our strength. We feel like we match up pretty good."

The last time the Jays faced Red River was in the 2021 Class A state quarterfinals. The Jays held the Roughriders to less than 200 yards while they themselves strung together 448 total offensive yards en route to their 35-0 quarterfinal victory.

But that was last year, and if you've ever talked to Nelson, you know last year — or last week — does not mean much to the Blue Jays.

"We don't talk about last year," Nelson said. "We talk about this year, this week, about Red River and that's it. Then next week, we'll talk about week two."

While schematics fluctuate now and then, Nelson has had the same approach — and game plan — to every game that he has coached over the last eight years and Friday will be no different.

"That's the beauty of high school athletics and high school football is putting the pieces together and watching things grow," Nelson said. "You'll tweak and modify but it's more about the process than it is the outcome. This was the whole goal eight years ago when I took over as head coach."

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The Jamestown Blue Jays have been practicing for the upcoming football season with the first game set for Aug. 26, at home.
John M. Steiner / The Jamestown Sun

Even though the Jays haven't seen any teams yet this year and have only seen Red River twice in the past 10 years, the team has done its research on the 2022 Roughriders so they know — at least in some capacity — what to expect on Friday night.


Nelson said he watched Grand Forks Red River's game against Williston last week live. He has also watched film and studied Red River's returning and new players.

"The game plan is pretty simple," Nelson said. "We've got to stop the run and take away their strength. We've got to be efficient on offense and keep moving the chains and we've got to be special on special teams. If we take care of those three things, at the end of the night we should be happy campers."

Nelson said that since Friday marks the Jays' first game, he expects a lot of energy and adrenaline pumping on the Blue Jay sidelines. Nelson said the trick from a coaching perspective is to make sure his squad doesn't completely unload in the first quarter.

"We want to come out on a high but we want to maintain and sustain it," Nelson said. "There's no perfection in high school football — there's going to be mistakes but we are going to continue to work, continue to be better, continue to pick each other up and support each other.

"It's going to be a good competition. If we come in and take care of what we need to take care of we like where we could possibly be sitting at the end of the night."

Katie Ringer is a sports reporter for the Jamestown Sun. Katie joined the Sun staff in the summer of 2019 after graduating from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire with a degree in journalism. She can be reached by email at or by phone at 701-952-8460.
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