New football sign raised outside New England

Mike Schatz has given the championship sign outside of New England an update. (Photo by Cole Benz/The Herald)
Mike Schatz has given the championship sign outside of New England an update. (Photo by Cole Benz/The Herald)

By COLE BENZ | Herald Editor
A sign reminding drivers of New England’s dominance in football got a makeover by the man who used to coach the dynasty.

Before losing their team due to dwindling numbers, New England was a powerhouse in 9-man football for nearly a decade. Winning championships while co-op’ed with schools St. Mary’s and Regent in 1988, and then three straight from 1995 to 1997, the dynasty of Tiger football now stands as a memory to the residents of Hettinger County.

Hoping to keep that memory fresh in people’s minds, former head coach, and current state legislator, Mike Schatz, put up a large billboard-like sign almost 20 years ago on land he owns. Now the sign was in desperate need of some tender loving care.

On the south side of the sign—which has suffered the most damage due to the sun hitting it for so many hours during the day—Schatz hung a new vinyl banner.

The sign was first raised by Schatz in 1997, following the final championship. But time (and some vandalism), has cause the billboard to deteriorate, and he wanted to keep the remembrance alive and vibrant.

With the deterioration, and a notice by the highway department, Schatz got going on the improvement.

“It was looking bad, I’m not saying it wasn’t,” Schatz said. “[The notice] prompted me to get going and to fix it up a little bit.”

This is the first time an improvement has been made since Schatz refurbished it nearly three years ago.

The dominant color of the new banner is white, he chose white over black or orange (other team Tiger team colors) because he figured it might slow the sun bleaching over time.

“I’m hoping this lasts for a while,” Schatz said.

He still has work to do on the north side, which will include replacing some boards and giving part of it some fresh paint. Eventually he would like to get both sides looking similar by hanging another vinyl banner.

It’s a nice coincidence that while Schatz raise a new sign, the county will create a new co-op. In 2017, Mott-Regent and New England will team up for a new era in Hettinger County football. And as football enters a new chapter, Schatz wanted to make sure those who brought championships home continue to get recognition. It’s something he’s attached to, and something he cherishes.

“I really feel very strongly to the teams I coached,” he said. “That’s a lifelong attachment you have to your football players.”

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