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Hayden Goethe, Published November 09 2013

Ellefson's TD, defensive stand lift Hawley to win in state quarters

MOORHEAD – Ben Ellefson had to look to make sure he got his feet down in the end zone for the game-winning touchdown, but his head coach never had any doubt.

Ellefson hauled in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Harms with 1 minute, 22 seconds remaining as Hawley came back from a point down. The Nuggets then got a defensive stand inside their 10-yard line to defeat Holdingford 29-22 in the quarterfinals of the Minnesota Class 2A state football playoffs Saturday afternoon at Jake Christiansen Stadium.

“I just tried to focus on the ball,” Ellefson said. “One at a time. Catch the ball and get my feet down.”

Hawley (10-1) will take on Chatfield (11-1) in the state semifinals at 11:30 a.m. Friday at the Metrodome.

The Nuggets were in command, grabbing a 21-6 lead with 7:25 to go. But the Huskers responded with back-to-back drives for touchdowns to take their first lead of the game 22-21 with 3:02 to go.

The Nuggets took over at their own 35-yard line. Despite driving against a stiff wind, Hawley elected to turn to its passing game.

A pair of Harms first-down passes to Dillon Omberg and Dalton Leaf – who had a key 73-yard interception return earlier in the fourth quarter – put the Nuggets at the Huskers’ 34-yard line.

Ellefson took over from there. Facing second-and-9 from the 33 after a short run, Harms lofted a pass toward Ellefson, but into double coverage. The 6-foot-4 junior tight end leaped and tipped the ball into the air before coming down with it for a 27-yard gain.

Two plays later, Ellefson ran a fade pattern toward the back left corner of the end zone. Harms again threw it high enough for Ellefson to jump above the defender and come down with it, getting his feet inbounds before falling through the back of the end zone. Ellefson then added the 2-point conversion catch.

“I have 100 percent confidence he’s going to catch the ball every time I throw it to him,” Harms said of Ellefson. “He’s a great player to have on your team.”

Nuggets head coach Peder Naatz said that once Ellefson made the 27-yard catch, there was little doubt as to whether or not they would go back to him.

“We got the word from up top,” Naatz said. “‘Hit Ellefson again. Don’t even mess around.’ When he’s got one on one, he’s not going to lose on a fade like that.”

The Huskers had one last chance, getting the ball at their 37-yard line with 1:16 left. Holdingford quarterback Mitch Messman, who was hobbling from a left knee injury suffered earlier in the game, completed four passes to get the Huskers down to the Nuggets’ 5-yard line with 33 seconds left before calling their final timeout.

A short run yielded no gain, forcing Messman to spike it. Facing third-and-goal from the 5, Messman dropped back and tossed a short pass to wide receiver Jeremy Springer on a screen play. But Springer was swarmed by the Nuggets’ defense and tackled, allowing the clock to run out as the Nuggets started to celebrate.

Holdingford (11-1) entered Saturday’s game having won 21 of its previous 22 games, with the only loss in that span occurring in last year’s state quarterfinals in two overtimes.

Hawley will be in the state semifinals for the first time since 2008. The Nuggets, like the Huskers, had also lost in the state quarterfinals last season.

“It feels amazing,” Harms said. “We’re one step further. We’re on our way to our goal.”

Hawley 6 0 7 16–29

Holdingford 6 0 0 16–22

HAW–Buttke 24 run (pass failed)

HOLD–Springer 53 pass from Mi. Messman (kick failed)

HAW–Buttke 6 run (Althoff kick)

HAW–Harms 1 run (Tusow pass from Harms)

HOLD–Ma. Messman 1 run (Gambos run)

HOLD–Mi. Messman 1 run (Ma. Messman run)

HAW–Ellefson 9 pass from Harms (Ellefson pass from Harms)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: HAW, Buttke 15-77, Omberg 15-65, Harms 10-44, Ellefson 9-31. HOLD, Mi. Messman 14-104, Gombos 8-37, Ma. Messman 7-24, Bialka 2-8, Gerads 1-(minus-1).

PASSING: HAW, Harms 5-8-0 81 yards. HOLD, Mi. Messman 10-21-2 245, Gerads 2-2-0 49.

RECEIVING: HAW, Ellefson 3-50, Leaf 1-20, Omberg 1-11. HOLD, Springer 6-176, Bialka 4-86, Catton 1-17, Gombos 1-15.


Readers can reach Forum Assistant Sports Editor Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558