'Stressful, man': Three takeaways from Nelson County's comeback against Four Winds

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

FORT TOTTEN – A windy Friday evening wasn’t going to dissuade any and all offense from not showing up. 

Nelson County (2-0, 0-0) scored two late-game touchdowns in the 4th quarter to beat Four Winds (1-1, 0-0), 30-26, on Aug. 26 in Fort Totten.

Talking about offense, one didn’t have to look much further than Nelson County’s road trip to Four Winds High School on Aug. 26. 

After the former scored 36 against New Rockford-Sheyenne and the latter charted 56 against Dunseith last weekend (and with both starting a newcomer at quarterback), such a contest this early in the season between the two teams looked to answer a plethora of questions about each respective team. 

The Chargers were put to the brink. After falling behind 26-16 with 7:26 left in the 4th quarter, the Chargers swiftly capitalized on a collection of Indian miscues and took home a closely fought 30-26 win in a late-summer thriller. 

Here are three takeaways from Nelson County’s (2-0, 0-0) win over Four Winds (1-1, 0-0): 

1. Four Winds – the difference a year makes 

A brief glimpse at last year’s box score between the Indians and Chargers might have required a soap bar for the eyes. After all, the Chargers took care of business and then some in what amounted to a 64-14 rout over the Indians in McVille on Sep. 9, 2021. 

Fast forward not even one calendar year later, and the same Four Winds team had more muscle and, perhaps most importantly, more experience. This experience illustrated itself three-fold during the second quarter as the Indians forced three of Nelson County’s four possession into turnovers (two interceptions, one fumble). 

Four Winds' Dalen Leftbear (black, left) reaches for a catch while Nelson County's Axel Anderson (right, white) defends in coverage.

“They’re [Four Winds] a tough team,” Nelson County head coach Beau Snyder said after the game. “They were a tough team last year. They have a lot of kids coming back with some experience. They have some fantastic athletes at a lot of different positions, and they’re big. They’re big up front, and we knew that going into it. We knew that, hey, they were going to make big plays here and there, and we have to move on to the next play, and when the time comes, we have to make our big plays. Fortunately, it worked out for us tonight.” 

“You can definitely tell that we put in some time in the offseason,” Four Winds co-head coach Travis Mertens said after the game. “Our boys, they were prepared for this game. A year older with Dalen [Leftbear], Deng [Deng] and that sophomore class...They are juniors now, so they have had a year of experience under their belt.” 

Despite the loss, the Indians have the size, strength and more than enough ability to win one-on-one matchups, according to Mertens. Glimpses of such dominance up front showed at times, albeit in spurts. For the Indians, it is about cleaning up mental lapses (more on that below). 

2. Fighting through a few lulls and coming up big when it counted most = the Jaxon Baumgarn way 

An inside slant from Jaxon Baumgarn to Axel Anderson with less than 20 seconds to go helped cap off a come-from-behind win for the Chargers, not to mention another multi-touchdown effort for the junior quarterback in Baumgarn. Baumgarn finished the contest with three total scoring trips (two rushing, one passing). Two of Baumgarn’s three touchdowns came in the 4th quarter. 

A comeback and a winning performance on the road certainly didn’t come without a few warts. Two interceptions earlier in the game pitted the Chargers behind the eight-ball, but the Chargers continued to claw their way back, slowly but surely. 

“Stressful, man,” Snyder said. “I knew we could make some plays. I knew I had a couple of formations and a couple of plays that had success earlier in the game, and we just didn’t make the right read, but give credit to Jaxon [Baumgarn] for making that read.” 

“We just had to forget about those and put those in our back pocket,” Baumgarn said after the game. “We knew that last drive was the only drive we could get toward the end of the game, and we knew we had to score.” 

Tacking off a road game with a pinch of adversity – and getting a win on top of the effort – might only give Baumgarn that much more momentum as the junior treks into his next varsity start (his Aug. 26 game was only his second career varsity start). 

3. Discipline plays 

Cliché alert – football is a game of inches. The Indians didn’t need a reminder, though. After seemingly converting a fourth-and-inches play with less than eight minutes to go in regulation, Four Winds bobbled the ball right into the hands of the Chargers after attempting to gain a touch more real estate. 

When combined with more crispness in communication and assignment coverage, the Chargers took advantage of a Four Winds team that lacked that same consistency. 

The end result? A thrilling win for one team and a heartbreaker for another. 

Nelson County (white, left) lines up for a defensive snap against Four Winds (black, right) on Aug. 26 in Fort Totten.

“You can’t do those things against a Nelson County team,” Four Winds co-head coach Mark Bishop said after the game. “They are just…even though we had the athletes and were winning a bunch of one-on-one matchups, in the end, they won because they were more disciplined. And they were healthier in the fact that their guys weren’t cramping, and our guys were. We go back to the drawing board. That’s all. The sky is the limit for our team. We feel like we can play with everybody.” 

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), Instagram (johnbcranesports) or Twitter (@johncranesports) with any story ideas.