Nelson County erupts for 64 points in 64-14 victory over Four Winds

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

MCVILLE - At first glance, the Nelson County Chargers were winning but not dominating. 

Although the Chargers marched into halftime with a 28-14 lead, the Four Winds Indians scored two touchdowns to keep the score within two possessions.  

However, a resonated halftime message, coupled with a jolt of offensive and defensive life, helped the Chargers score 36 unanswered points and collect the 64-14 victory Thursday evening. 

Nelson County comes in for a huddle before their game against Four Winds on Sep. 9.

With the win, Nelson County (4-0) is now off to their best regular-season start since before the 2013-14 season, when they went 5-4. The Chargers’ 64 points scored during the contest is currently a 2020-21 season-high and is additionally the most points scored by the team since Oct. 6, 2017 (they scored 69 points in a 69-0 win against Four Winds). The Indians, meanwhile, remain winless on the year (0-4). 

“Confidence,” Nelson County head coach Beau Snyder said after the game. “That is the No. 1 thing. We are confident, we came out, and we beat a good team right off the bat. We have just been confident ever since, and we have kids that know they can make plays. They know they can make them. They know they are good football players, and they are doing it. They are executing. And they understand it takes hard work to do it. It takes a lot of work in practice. Our kids are putting in the time, and they are stepping up this year.” 

The Chargers did not waste any time when the whistle blew to open play Thursday evening. Not even five seconds were trimmed off the clock after Zach Gibson tallied an 80-yard punt return touchdown to begin the first quarter.  

Nelson County quickly padded their lead to 20 points with less than three minutes to go in the first quarter after Nelson County running back Garrett Haakenson reeled in two touchdowns via a 27-yard run and 20-yard reception from quarterback Cade Stein. However, a 68-yard Jayden Yankton slingshot to Deng Deng, coupled with a five-yard run by Kylon Keja, kept Four Winds within reach through two quarters even after Gibson brought in another touchdown. 

“I just did not think we were ready,” Snyder said. “We were not getting to the ball very fast. We were not setting up on defense fast enough, and we were not setting up on offense fast enough. We just did not have that energy that we normally have, and that is what I talked to the kids about. We play fast, and that is what we have to do in the second half. Get to the ball, get set, get ready to go right away. That is what I preached at halftime and the kids executed in the second half.” 

And execute the Chargers certainly did. Another Gibson punt return for 80+ yards during the Chargers’ opening drive opened the floodgates. Four additional Nelson County players found the end zone during the second half (Hunter Charles, Holden Lenz, Ander Azaola and Arthur Gutierrez). 

To Haakenson, the reasoning for the offensive explosion was as simple as it was profound: practice. 

Running back Garrett Haakenson runs in a touchdown on Sep. 9 against Four Winds.

“Just practicing,” senior running back Garrett Haakenson said. “Quarterback play has been amazing, all our running backs, athletes…it is just there. Everything is clicking right now.” 

To Snyder, the success on the field has been a much-needed remedy for a team that only netted one win during the 2020-21 season, and four wins combined dating back to the 2019-20 season. 

“I am just excited for our kids,” Snyder said. “It has been a while since we have had a good season, so I am excited for us. We are going to keep working hard. I talked to the kids about taking one game at a time and how we are not going to overlook anybody. One game at a time.” 

Nelson County will next challenge North Prairie at Rolla High School on Sep. 17. Four Winds, meanwhile, will head back home to host New Rockford-Sheyenne on Sep. 17.