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Kerry Collins, Published November 03 2009

Minnesota high school football: Nuggets, Rebels set to square off

It’s time for section championship football, but that’s no big deal in Hawley. This is just another week.

For the fifth consecutive season, the Nuggets will be playing for the Class 2A, Section 8 championship.

That’s no easy task for anybody.

“I think the longer you keep going, the harder it is to maintain,” Hawley coach Peder Naatz said. “You have different kids and different plays and different things happen throughout the year.

“The longer you string together something like that, the better chance you have of getting knocked out.”

Advancing to the section title game may be business as usual in Hawley, but something is different this season. Hawley won’t be playing Pelican Rapids – the team the Nuggets faced in each of the last four section title tilts.

This year, Hawley (9-1) faces Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (9-1) at 8 p.m. on Friday at the Fargodome.

“Those were always good games (against Pelican Rapids),” Naatz said. “So as far as section championships go, they’ve been dandies the last four years.

“This one shouldn’t be any different.”

The Rebels and the Nuggets are similar teams.

Both like to pound the ball with a punishing running game – Hawley primarily uses Nate Mattson and Kevin Olson, while D-G-F rolls with Bennet Mercil, Zack Askelson and Jared Roelofs.

Both also shut other teams down with smothering defense. D-G-F is allowing 6.5 points per game this season, while Hawley has allowed eight points per contest.

While four-time defending champ Hawley has been the bullies of Class 2A, Section 8 lately, Naatz knows the Nuggets better be ready to hit back on Friday.

“I have to give them the edge in how physical they play, because they’re more physical than we are,” Naatz said. “We’re similar in how we run the ball, but maybe they’re a bit stronger there, too.

“They are so hard-nosed and physical, and that’s something we’re going to have to be ready for. If not our hands are going to be very, very full.”

The Nuggets have not only won the section the last four years, but they’ve also advanced to the state semifinals in each of those seasons.

Naatz cited playing competition like the Tydan Storrusten-led Pelican Rapids squads for gearing Hawley up for those runs to the Metrodome.

He expects this year’s section champs – no matter which team it is – to also have a good shot at advancing in the state tournament.

The opponent may be different this year, but Hawley has proven that they’re one of the top programs around as they go for a fifth straight section crown.

“One of the fun parts of coaching is the challenge of this,” Naatz said. “We’ve had a pretty good thing going here, and it’s a challenge to keep it going.

“We hope it continues this year, too.”


Readers can reach Forum reporter

Kerry Collins at (701) 241-5548