Three tips: what Nelson County football must do to beat St. John

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – The Nelson County Chargers will officially begin their postseason campaign this Saturday when they host the St. John Woodchucks at Lakota High School. The Woodchucks, who came out with a 20-6 victory against the Four Winds Indians on Oct. 16, will have their hands full when they take to the road on Oct. 23 and go up against a formidable offensive and pesky defense capable of turning over the ball at will. 

The meeting between the two teams will be their second of the season, and while their first matchup saw the Chargers pull through, 14-8, a new game brings an entirely different atmosphere. So what must the Chargers do to thrive in their first taste of postseason action since the 2017-18 season? Let’s look into it.  

1. Keep feeding Garrett Haakenson 

The senior running back/linebacker has been a force on the offensive side this season. Haakenson not only tallied at least one touchdown in every game this season but did it with authority, too. Collectively, Haakenson added 12 rushing touchdowns and five receiving touchdowns to his high school resume during the regular season. 

Although a running back by trade, Haakenson has also shown the ability to play all over the field defensively. Haakenson’s magnetic coverage showed itself on Oct. 1 when he came up with an 83-yard pick-six against Benson County. The more Haakenson finds the ball or is fed the ball, the more likely the Chargers will have of dictating the game’s pace. 

2. Allow the defense to shine 

At times, Nelson County’s offense has stolen the show. Even still, the defense has stepped up to make the necessary plays when needed. In Nelson County’s 57-8 win against Benson County, Haakenson, Isaak Anthony and Cristian Fougner all picked up an interception returned for a touchdown.  

Nelson County has shown expertise in forcing the opponent to make the perfect play. Expect the Chargers to stack the box and force a turnover whenever the Woodchucks are forced to go with the air attack.  

3. Do not overthink it

The lopsided box scores and padded statistic totals are all fine and dandy. For the Chargers, it is now all about keeping the intangibles in check. Even if the offense does not come to life, the Chargers must remain confident if the opposing defense begins to get a couple of stops under their belt. This was especially true during the team’s 16-6 regular-season finale win against the New Rockford-Sheyenne Rockets. 

“It just shows our guys that sometimes we are not going to be able to score all of those points, and we just have to gut it out,” Nelson County head coach Beau Snyder said after the win. 

Confidence is critical. In Nelson County's case, it is paramount they keep a level head should the offensive production not go their way. Doing anything otherwise will only give St. John the necessary ammunition to play the upset card. 

Final thoughts: 

A team with Haakenson, Cade Stein, Zachary Gibson and a slew of other pieces is bound to score a touchdown or four at the minimum. While this was not the case during Nelson County’s first matchup against the Woodchucks, the offense has hummed to life in more ways than one since then. Over their seven ensuing games, Nelson County has averaged 45 points per game. This includes their 16-6 regular-season finale win against the Rockets. 

Although the Woodchucks will look to keep the opposing offense off of the field, the Chargers will show the ability to score too quickly and too often for them to keep up. Expect a close game through the early going before the Chargers pull away late.  

Prediction: 38-24 Nelson County