Bismarck football looking to turn heads in 2021

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Bismarck School District

Bismarck Lions 2021 Football Schedule

For the past two decades, the Bismarck Lion football program has had some trouble getting traction. A five win season hasn’t been recorded since the late 90’s and Bismarck’s last outright conference title came back in 1994.

All of this looks to change within the next couple of years. Head coach Daniel Keithley enters his fifth year as the head Lion of the pride and he is slowly changing a once dormant program.

“It is definitely still a work in progress, but our younger groups are at the point where they expect to be successful,” Keithley said. “My first few years at Bismarck, there was a problem with the joking from players about not winning at Bismarck. It may still occur from those outside the program, but those within the program have bought in that we plan to compete.”

Last season ended with their first playoff appearance since 2014, where they were only down to eventual state runner up McGehee Owls 20-14 at half.

The Lions’ motto this summer has been “Show Up.” Bismarck has long had a history of players not buying into the program but also not having the leadership that Keithley helps bring to the table.

“When we say show up, we don’t just mean in the body,” Keithley said. “We don’t have the luxury of out athleting anyone we play. We have to bring everything we have on every play, whether it is a game or practice.”

Last season, Bismarck won three games against Horatio, Cutter Morning Star, and Fouke, giving the chance at a 5 seed in the playoffs. Bismarck also brings back much needed talent at quarterback and linebacker with Ian Smith and Barret Schultz.

“Ian Smith should have a good season as the returning QB.” Keithley said. “Barret Schultz has looked really good this summer as well as Joseph Billinings who we have moved inside to join Schultz. Xander Talbert and Dylan Hart will be tough on the offensive and defensive lines.”

Bismarck also brought back Braden Efird who led the team in receiving yards and tackles a year ago. This coming season could possibly be the Lions’ toughest opening schedule in years, opening with growing power class 2A Dierks in week zero, and then taking on Hot Spring County rivals Magnet Cove and Poyen in weeks one and two before a bye.

“We are fully aware of Bismarck’s reputation in football, and we are looking to put that mentality and opinion of Bismarck to rest,” Keithley said. “This conference is loaded and we understand how difficult it is to make the playoffs out of this conference. In the fall, we fully intend on being in the conversation and upsetting a few teams that may look past us.”

Keithley and his team will hit the gridiron August 19 with a benefit game against Murfreesboro at Henderson Field before making the trip to Dierks in Week Zero.