Listen to Epping Eagles interviews
This is not a true-crime story, and if you are an avid fan of Dakota Spotlight, you may have heard this once before between seasons one and two. But I’m gonna share it again now with a couple of updates.
Why? Well, let me tell you.
This story just feels relevant in a way and a much needed reminder in 2023. It’s something I believe we can all relate to and be inspired by – and despite all the podcast content I’ve created since then, this story remains one of my favorites.
It’s a story about something we all have within us, something we have all felt at times, something you may have been considering as recently as this morning, as you lay in bed studying the ceiling above you.
It’s about remaining true to ourselves and our pursuit of our personal dreams in life – not the things others want us to achieve or accomplish, not what others believe we are capable of (or what they tell us we are incapable of) but rather those dreams and aspirations you feel burning deep down in your marrow or in your heart; the things we want to achieve or accomplish or maybe just what we want to stand for as a human being.
In this case it’s an inspiring story about how one determined 17-year-old farm kid made up his mind to defy the odds in 1976 and 1977. He set a goal that many assumed was unattainable. But, his irresistible humble spirit won over the initial naysayers and then rallied an army of followers – first his friends, then his tiny community on the prairie and finally the whole state of North Dakota.
His name was Don Allard and in 1976 and 1977, he was a senior at the smallest high school in the state of North Dakota, Epping High with just 23 students. 23 farm-kids that nobody had ever heard of, in a town with no paved streets.
And what was his goal? Don Allard was a basketball player, and somehow, this young man first envisioned and then set into motion the act leading his team, the Epping Eagles, to the finals of the coveted Class B State Basketball Tournament in 1977.
In the end – in the final game of that tournament – Don Allard and his Epping Eagles lost to the largest high school in the state. But, with a similar spirit of Rocky Balboa, the hero of that year’s best-picture at the Oscars, the Epping Eagles, with their mild-mannered and hard-working pursuit won the hearts of people everywhere.
The legend of this Cinderella team and of their run at the state title remains perhaps the most memorable game in all of North Dakota’s highschool sports history.
It was a different time. It was a time before shot clocks and three point lines. It was before schools started consolidating teams across two or more schools to build bigger and better squads. It’s safe to say, something exactly like this won’t happen again in North Dakota.
Don Allard had passed away in 2015 at age of 56 – before I recorded the following story.
Al and Linda Allard
Coach Larry Overbo.