Three 9B – Region 3 storylines to watch as football practice begins

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – The 9B – Region 3 slice of the high school football pie will be one to digest in more ways than one. 

Three ways, in particular, stand out. 

The 9B – Region 3 side of the gridiron will feature Cavalier, Larimore, Midway/Minto, Nelson County and North Border. And so, as practice officially gets underway on Aug. 4, what will be three storylines to keep an eye on as each team jockeys for just enough practice time to make that much more of a difference? Let’s dig into it.  

1. Newer faces, similar places - how will Nelson County build off 2021? 

The Nelson County Chargers will have a different look to them this year after a banner 2021 campaign.

2021 was a banner year for Nelson County, and a quick glimpse at their season would only illustrate such a statement. After scoring only 14 points in their 2021 season-opener against the St. John Woodchucks on Aug. 20, the Chargers averaged 38 points per game (PPG) the rest of the way in their next nine games (postseason included). Although the performance didn’t highlight their highest point total, Nelson County’s 28-22 first-round playoff victory over the same Woodchucks team netted the former their first-ever playoff victory as a co-op. 

A 9-1 overall record during 2021 brought quite the allure. A new year, however, brings an entirely different Charger team. Senior quarterback Cade Stein – who spiraled 20 touchdowns last season – has since graduated. Garrett Haakenson – the team’s RB1 who led the team in rushing yards and touchdowns with 735 and 12, respectively – has additionally left the high school ranks. Then, there is Isaak Anthony, Austin Zacha, Calahan Forde and Garrett Syverson. 

Running back, tight end, offensive line, you name it. All gone. 

Nelson County retains some offensive firepower from a year ago. Zachary Gibson and Holden Lenz come to mind. The pair combined for 16 all-purpose touchdowns in 2021. However, without Stein and Haakenson, the Chargers will have to find a new QB-RB tandem. 

While the Chargers could run it back (no pun intended), it will need to be with former role players-turned-star players. Who will make the jump? 

2. Can Larimore’s Eric Hoffmann pass and carry the torch? 

Larimore brings back a ton of talent the way the Chargers did a year prior. Nine seniors make up the tentative 2022 roster, including quarterback/linebacker Eric Hoffmann, who tallied 200+ passing and rushing yards during the 2021 campaign (230 and 205). Not bad for a player on a team that didn’t even play nine games last season. 

The Polar Bears will have some hurdles to cross, of course. Tysen Landeis and Kolton Moen – Larimore’s top two running back options in terms of rushing yards and rushing touchdowns last season (the pair combined for 928 total rushing yards and 11 rushing touchdowns) have since graduated. And so, Hoffmann will need to adjust to a newer offensive backfield. Finding a new RB partner or two will be critical as practice starts. 

3. Six-man to nine: how will North Border and Midway/Minto re-adjust/adjust, respectively? 

North Border and Midway/Minto aren’t necessarily alone in this regard. After playing among the six-man football ranks last season, both teams will look to adapt to the nine-man mindset. In the case of the former, the Eagles will look to build off of a 2021 season that saw them go a spotless 7-0 during their lone year as a six-man team. Midway/Minto, meanwhile, will look for redemption differently as the Mustangs finished with a sub-.500 record (3-4, 3-3). 

For both teams, jumping into the nine-man fold will mean more personnel. As such, both teams will look toward practice as a way to juggle around players and see what works best. 

John Crane is a sports/general assignment reporter for the Devils Lake Journal. Feel free to contact John via work phone (701-922-1372), cell phone (701-230-4339), email (jcrane@gannett.com) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.