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Chris Murphy, Published November 15 2013

Hawley football season comes to an end in loss to Chatfield

MINNEAPOLIS – Hawley football coach Peder Naatz walked alone through the tunnel at the Metrodome on Friday toward his Nuggets’ locker room. He took his hat off, scratched his bald head, swallowed a few leftover tears and entered the locker room to try to explain to his Nuggets team why life isn’t always fair.

Another football season. Another state title game without Hawley.

Chatfield ended Hawley’s season Friday at the Metrodome with a 41-21 win in the Minnesota Class 2A state semifinals. It’s the ninth time the Nuggets had been to state since their last trip to the state title game in 1996, which was a 12-7 loss to Chatfield.

“Their strength, their offensive line and, again, their strength,” Naatz said of Chatfield. “They are so strong. Jacob Neis is a hell of an athlete. We had five guys try to take him down, and he’d still move the pile.”

Chatfield lined up against the Nuggets and ran it right at them. And the Nuggets couldn’t stop them.

“Their line was huge,” Hawley junior tight end/linebacker Ben Ellefson said. “That’s what killed us.”

Chatfield rushed for 484 yards on 64 carries. Neis had 236 of those yards on 26 carries and four touchdowns, and Alex Bradt added 155 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. Hawley, as a team, had 1 rushing yard.

“They were stronger than we were,” Naatz said. “They were a phenomenal team. Anyone that comes out of that section, you know they are going to be a dynamite squad. On paper, we matched up very well, but they are in a different league.”

Chatfield scored on its first five drives, using 30 plays to score 26 points and throwing the ball once. The Gophers ran the kind of drives that suck the life out of a defense. Their opening drive went for 65 yards on nine rushing plays. Hawley went three-and-out and the Gophers came back with a 41-yard drive on nine rushing plays to make it 12-0 and then 64 yards on four running plays to make it 19-0 before the Nuggets had time to catch their breath.

“If you come out of that conference and that section, you’re a phenomenal football team,” Naatz said. “Out of the luck of the draw, we got them again. They deserve a lot of credit for this.”

Neis’ third touchdown of the game made it a 26-0 game and a bad Hawley shotgun snap went through the back of the end zone for a safety to make it 28-0 at half.

Hawley didn’t roll over and die. A 72-yard touchdown pass from Dalton Leaf to Ellefson made it a 28-7 game. Chatfield quarterback Nate Skare’s 1-yard dive put Chatfield up 34-7 with 8:14 to play. Hawley got a quick score on a 1-yard run to Chris Buttke, recovered an onside kick and scored again on a 3-yard touchdown run for Ellefson to make it a 34-21 game with 5:54 left. Neis put it away on the next play from scrimmage, running for a 49-yard touchdown.

Naatz’s talk to his squad was most likely similar to the explanation given to the Nuggets after a 12-6 loss in the state title game in 1995 or the 12-7 loss in the state title game in 1996, both of which came at the hands of Chatfield.

There isn’t much to say after nine trips to the state tournament and no tickets punched to the title game since 1996.

“It was an unbelievable effort,” Naatz said. “There was tremendous pride in the way they played. When we took out the starters, they didn’t want to quit. It was a never-say-die team.”

With only nine seniors graduating, there’s the all-too-familiar wait until next season for Hawley, which is still looking for the program’s first state title. The Nuggets will have no choice but to do just that.

“It’s a learning experience,” Ellefson said. “We know the work we need to put in the offseason. Hopefully, it gets us back here. Coming this close and getting stopped sucks. We’ll come back and try to do it again.”

H 0 0 7 14–21

C 12 16 0 13–41

C-Neis 2 run (kick missed)

C-Neis 1 run (pass failed)

C-Bradt 10 run (Prinsen kick)

C-Neis 2 run (Prinsen kick)


H-Ellefson 72 pass from Leaf (Alfhoff)

C-Skare 1 run (kick missed)

H-Buttke 1 run (kick missed)

H-Ellefson 3 run (Teeples pass from Harms)

C-Neis 49 run (Skare kick)


RUSHING: H, Buttke 4-7, Harms 5-11, Ellefson 2-7, Omberg 7-19. C, Neis 26-236, Bradt 15-155, Haffner 2-20, Skare 9-30, Meeker 5-17, Koenig 1-1, Steichen 2-4.

PASSING: H, Harms 8-22-0 168 yards, Ellefson 0-1-0 0 yards, Leaf 1-1-0 72 yards. C, Skare 1-4-0 19 yards.

RECEIVING: H, Ellefson 2-103, Omberg 3-45, Regnier 2-33, Leaf 2-59. C, Hurley 1-19.

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