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Chris Murphy, Published November 06 2013

Junior standouts trying to help Hawley football team blaze a title trail

Hawley, Minn. - Hawley junior Ben Ellefson didn’t think twice when he was asked at what point he would start working for basketball season if his football season were to end Saturday in the Minnesota Class 2A state quarterfinals against Holdingford.

“The next day,” Ellefson said.

Outside of girls cross country championships as Hawley-Ulen-Hitterdal in 1989 and 1991, Hawley has never won a state title in any sport.

The Nuggets have a duo in juniors Jordan Harms and Ellefson that could change that.

And they have four seasons – two in football and two in basketball – left to work with.

“Our chances have gone up quite a bit with them,” Hawley football coach Peder Naatz said. “If it comes true, it will have a lot to do with them. If it doesn’t happen this year, we’ll come back and try again next year.”

It’s almost as tough to describe what exactly Ellefson is as it is to tackle him.

He’s 6-foot-4 and 206 pounds. He plays tight end, wide receiver, quarterback, running back and linebacker for the football team and is a center and forward that can attack the boards down low and step back and hit a 3-pointer for the basketball team. As a sophomore last season, he averaged 18.2 points, 9.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists per game for the 25-2 Nuggets.

This football season, Ellefson has rushed for 309 yards and six touchdowns on 37 carries, thrown for 110 yards and one touchdown on eight passes, caught 29 passes for 461 yards and seven touchdowns, made 37 tackles and hauled in three interceptions.

At this point, even Ellefson doesn’t know what he is.

“I just want to keep my options open,” Ellefson said. “I just want to keep both sports neutral and decide when I need to decide. I’ll play both this year and next year.”

Ellefson already has an offer from Augustana to play basketball and a few other Division II and smaller Division I schools looking at him.

Harms doesn’t hesitate when it comes to what he is.

“I’m a football player,” the 6-foot-3, 170-pound junior said.

His basketball stats would beg to differ.

As a sophomore on the basketball team, he averaged 11 points, 2.2 rebounds and 3.4 assists.

Harms is a quarterback, wide receiver and safety for the football team and plays shooting guard on the basketball team. He’s rushed for 288 yards and six touchdowns on 76 attempts, thrown for 910 yards and 12 touchdowns on 108 passes, has caught three passes for 73 yards and a touchdown, and he has a 51-yard punt. Harms also has 23 tackles and five interceptions.

It’s a lot of numbers, none of which mean anything to either player.

“Sometimes one of us will have a better game than the other,” Ellefson said. “One of us will get more of the light, but it doesn’t matter. It’s not going to affect either one of us. We don’t look at that stuff.”

Since the duo’s freshman season, the basketball team is 42-11 and the football team is 30-3 with two section championships.

“The coolest thing about these kids is it’s not about them,” Naatz said. “It’s all about team success. Being as talented as they are, you’d think they’d have a little bit of I, me, my in them, but they are awfully selfless.”

Wearing their football pads, Ellefson and Harms walked to the Hawley practice field past Hawley Elementary kids getting out of school Tuesday. Kids looked up in awe. They were larger than life.

There’s one thing still missing from Hawley, and Ellefson and Harms aren’t trying to get it for themselves.

“A state championship would mean a lot for the community,” Ellefson said. “It would bring a lot of pride.”

There’s no confusion about that.

“It would mean the world to our community and everyone who has played with Hawley before that didn’t get a chance to play for a state championship or win one,” Harms said.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548