Homecoming to home rebounding: three games to watch during upcoming football weekend slate

John B. Crane
Devils Lake Journal

DEVILS LAKE – Week No. 3 of high school football action is well underway, and you know what that means. 

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

Yes, it is time for yet another glimpse at what to look forward to this week regarding in-game action on local football fields. So, what games stand out the most between Devils Lake (11A – East), Langdon Area/Edmore/Munich (11B – Region 2), 9B – Region 3 and 9B – Region 4? Well, let’s find out. 

Here are three games to watch this weekend: 

1. North Star (2-0, 0-0) vs. Nelson County (2-0, 0-0) 

Venue: North Star High School (Sep. 2) 

Time: 4:00 p.m. CDT 

This game holds many a storyline. The Friday afternoon-to-evening contest will double as Homecoming for the Bearcats, who will officially dismiss school at 2:00 p.m. CDT to prepare for the occasion. 

A 42-24 loss to Nelson County in McVille last season (Sep. 24, 2021) didn’t necessarily tell the entire story. While an 18-point defeat might have sounded astronomical on the surface, the Bearcats, in actuality, did something only a handful of other teams did at any point last season: lead against the Chargers after one quarter. However, a 10-8 North Star lead through 12 minutes wouldn’t last as long as Garrett Haakenson continued to gobble up snaps. Haakenson rushed for 241 yards and scored five rushing touchdowns for the Chargers during the matchup. 

Nelson County's Jaxon Baumgarn (#8, center) rushes with the football against Four Winds on Aug. 26.

2022, however, brings a different Charger team. But not one to take lightly. Even without Haakenson, the Chargers still have rushing legs, including quarterback Jaxon Baumgarn, who tallied two rushing touchdowns in Nelson County’s 30-26 comeback win against Four Winds on Aug. 26. 

The Bearcats, meanwhile, bring back their entire scoring complement from last season. Quarterback Dane Hagler and running back Garrett Westlind – who combined for all three total touchdowns against the Chargers last season – return to the fold.

In two games played, the Bearcats are averaging 41 points per game (PPG). A 48-0 shutout against TGU on Aug. 26 only adds to the Bearcats’ momentum on their side. But will it be enough to stop Nelson County’s surge? Well, there is the million-dollar homecoming question, wouldn’t you say? 

2. Four Winds (1-1, 0-0) vs. Larimore (2-0, 0-0) 

Venue: Four Winds High School (Sep. 2) 

Time: 7:00 p.m. CDT 

So close, yet so far: a statement the Indians didn’t need to hear twice. Hearing it once stung enough. A 26-16 lead against Nelson County with less than eight minutes to go in the 4th quarter – and in Fort Totten, no less – wasn’t enough to take down Nelson County. And so, once the Chargers capitalized on a go-ahead slant touchdown with 20 seconds to go in regulation, it was back to the drawing board for the Indians.

“I’ve said it from the get-go,” Four Winds co-head coach Travis Mertens said after the game. "I just think we have a lot of guys that can win a lot of matchups when they’re put in that position. We had an opportunity, and you can’t hurt yourself against a Nelson County team like that because they’re so fundamentally coached so well and fundamentally disciplined…any little mistake they seem to take advantage of.” 

Four Winds vs. Nelson County Football 8/26/22

The good news for Four Winds? They have another chance to claim a win on their home turf Friday evening. The bad news? It isn’t against a pushover – Larimore is averaging 34 PPG and has only allowed 9.5 PPG. Senior quarterback Eric Hoffmann has compiled four passing and three rushing touchdowns for 560 total yards (360 passing, 200 rushing). The Indians, under first-year quarterback Kashton Keja Jr., will have their work cut out for them. The Polar Bears, meanwhile, will look to dash away home hopes. 

3. Benson County (0-2, 0-0) vs. Midway/Minto (0-1, 0-0) 

Venue: Leeds High School (Sep. 2) 

Time: 4:00 p.m. CDT 

This game might not seem striking on the surface. And that’s a fair assessment. Both teams are a combined 0-3 to begin the season. But sometimes, the story comes not from the spectacle of what has happened but the allure of what could happen after the fact. 

For Benson County, the game is a possible avenue toward picking up their first win in over a full calendar year (the Wildcats finished 0-8 in 2021). Midway/Minto, meanwhile, has the opportunity to cash in with their first nine-man win in 2022 after playing among the six-man ranks last season. 

On paper, neither team holds a marquee advantage. And that’s A-OK. A win can change everything, and perhaps a win is a spark toward something bigger and better down the road. Who knows? 

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.