BILLINGS — A 26-game series ended before its finale could be played.

Earlier this year, Knights of Columbus Badlands Bowl officials announced this season's game, set to the be the 27th annual, would be the last.

However, the novel coronavirus struck again.

On Friday morning the board made the decision to cancel the annual all-star football game between Montana and North Dakota high school seniors, which was to be played at Dickinson State University in North Dakota on June 20.

"I am kind of sick about this thing," co-founder Kelly Reid of Miles City said when speaking to 406mtsports.com in a phone conversation.

Reid’s brother, Rick Reid, is also a co-founder of the game and is still on the North Dakota committee even after moving to Billings. Rick Reid, who had lived in Bismarck, North Dakota, when the series first started, said the decision to cancel the game, and thus the series, was difficult.

“This was going to be our last year, so it made it that much harder to do it because there is no next year,” Rick Reid said.

“It was kind of hard in the heart, but not too hard in the head. The head told us what we had to do because of the condition the country is in right now. But, that didn’t make it any easier for the heart.”

The official statement from a press release said:

“Sunset on the Badlands Bowl

It is with great regret that we are announcing the cancellation of the 27th Annual Badlands Bowl that was to take place in Dickinson, N.D., on June 20, 2020.

It is unfortunate that COVID-19 protocols have taken away yet another celebration and honor for Montana and North Dakota seniors. We wish them all the best as they go forward with their academic and athletic pursuits in these uncertain times.

We would like to thank the committee members and volunteers, sponsors, and the communities of Dickinson, N.D., and Miles City, MT, for their tireless work and support of the Badlands Bowl over the last 27 years. We also would like to thank the numerous coaches and players from both states who came together to create memorable events each June and lasting relationships with each other.”

Organizers had held out hope of being able to play the game, but the health of all involved was the deciding factor.

"The safety of everybody," Kelly Reid said. "If we would have had it and somebody would have caught something, it would be a black eye for Dickinson State and the game and we sure don't want it to end that way."

Rather than just postponing to next year, Kelly Reid said the series would still be ending, even with the cancellation. Reid explained that once a decision is made that something is over, it's hard to change that.

"The logistics is part of it," he said. "The situation with players, sponsors, committee members. We decided we wanted it to end on a good note and if it didn't, we'd go on from there."

Rick Reid concurred, saying regrettably the series would end with a cancellation.

“We looked at maybe having our next game next year and decided we would be just delaying the inevitable,” Rick Reid said of the decision and the end of the series.

Another hurdle to overcome in the coronavirus age was the game involves players from two states, he added.

“We were working with both states and the governors’ rules for both states are different, so we have to comply with both,” he said.

Postponing this year's game to a different date was not a feasible option, explained the Reid brothers.

"Well, you had the players and the coaches had made plans for a month from now. If we backed it up a month, and then there's hotel rooms," Kelly Reid said. "A lot of players were starting to talk about going to college, and camps are starting to open up, depending on when they have to go."

Rick Reid said organizers even thought about changing the location of the game to Miles City, but in the end the hard decision to cancel had to be made.

“We looked at everything,” Rick Reid said. “We didn’t make this decision easily, but the facts just said, ‘Hey it’s time.’ ”

Montana ends the series having won 20 games; North Dakota won six. Montana won the last five games, including 41-14 last year in Miles City.

Despite some lopsided wins by the Treasure State in recent years, Kelly Reid said some good football was played during the series.

“There were some that weren’t (good games), but I always remember year No. 3. It was a 23-22 game that North Dakota won and we had one in North Dakota that ended up 41-38 that North Dakota won (in 2010). I never missed a one. I’m kind of a football nut. I live and breathe football. I’ve enjoyed every game.”

The Badlands Bowl is another in a long list of cancellations due to the new coronavirus and a social distancing effort to contain its spread. The Montana high school spring sports season was canceled. Other all-star games, including the Midland Roundtable Montana-Wyoming All-Star basketball series, the Montana East-West Shrine Game, the 8-Man football all-star game and the 6-Man all-star game have also been scratched. 

Rick Reid said the players selected this year will receive their jerseys.

“We’ve always given the kids their jerseys at the end of the game as a keepsake,” he said. “We will be mailing the kids their jerseys.”

Both the Reid brothers said they will treasure their memories of the game and were thankful for all the support the Badlands Bowl received. The sting hurts for those associated with this year’s game, but there was little choice other than to cancel.

“It’s a little tough going out this way, but it’s the cards you are dealt,” Kelly Reid said.

“You sure can’t complain. Nothing lasts forever, but it lasted 26 years.”

Email Gazette Deputy Sports Editor John Letasky at john.letasky@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJohnL

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