Healing Nelson County team runs wild for win over Benson County

Jack Williams
Devils Lake Journal
Nelson County senior Roman Steffan rushes towards the end zone in a game against Benson County on Sept. 5 in Maddock. The Chargers defeated the Wildcats 54-22

The Nelson County Chargers a little roughed up coming into the 2020 fall season. Roughed up in terms of a good chunk of their roster is unable to play due to injury. The lack of players, specifically veterans, on the field has seen the Charges start out at 0-2 in their first two weeks.

However, Saturday afternoon in Maddock, Nelson County got one back, and his return didn’t go unnoticed. Junior Garrett Haakenson ran for four touchdowns against Benson County (0-3, 0-2 Region 2) to elevate Nelson County (1-2, 1-1 Region 2) past the Wildcats, 54-22, for its first win of the season. 

“I thought we played hard today,” Chargers head coach Beau Snyder said. “It was a good team effort, we established the run early and it was nice to get a couple of guys healthy who weren’t last week. It helped out our team quite a bit.” 

While Haakenson led the charge for Nelson County, he got off to a shaky start in the early first quarter. While rushing towards the end zone, he would fumble the ball and the Wildcats would recover. However, in the following drive, Haakenson would pick off the Benson County quarterback to put the Chargers ahead. 

He would score again in the first quarter and tack on another touchdown before halftime, followed by a short drive from freshman Zachray Gibson, to put the Chargers in the driver's seat, 30-16. Snyder said that Haakenson is a player that the team leans on going both ways.

“He’s a leader and one of our big players,” Snyder said. “He’s important for us to have out there. When we got him healthy and he was ready to go, we lean on him quite a bit.”

Haakenson would tally on one more touchdown in the third quarter, complimited by a 20-yard rushing score from junior Isaak Anthony, a short rushing score from junior Austin Zacha in the late fourth quarter and a safety, to cap off the win for the Chargers. 

However, the Wildcats didn’t go down easy. Benson County found some momentum in the late second quarter and third quarter off their own rush to pull within eight. Senior John Fischer would receive a short 6-yard pass from junior Aden Jensen and run 90-yards to the house for the Wildcats first score. Benson County would head into halftime off of a pick six from freshman Logan Maddock as time expired, sparking the Chargers to evaluate their passing game.

“We established a running game today and we need to start connecting on our passing game as well,” Snyder said. “We had some nice routes and some open receivers, but we’ve just got to make sure that we connect with the ball. We have to mix it up. We can’t run on everybody.”

Benson County would pick up where they left off in the first half as freshman Macyn Olson would break away in the first two minutes of the quarter to pull within eight. The Wildcats also managed to suppress Haakenson in the early third quarter, seeing him on the sideline from time to time. Snyder said Haakenson was a little fatigued in the third quarter, prompting him to take a breather. 

“He was getting a lot of carries and doing a lot all day long and it’s a warm day today, but he didn’t complain about any injuries like that,” Snyder said. “He just needed a breather, some water and we were able to get some other guys some reps too.” 

In the end, Nelson County walked away from Maddock with their first win of the season, while its roster isn’t 100 percent yet. Snyder said he’s not expecting his team to be fully healthy until late September at the earliest. Having the younger core get a win under their belt gives the Chargers some confidence heading deeper into the season.

“You can definitely tell a win like this boosts our morale,” Snyder said. “This is also going to bring energy to practice next week and into Friday night too. Preparation in practice is important and coming up with a game plan against North Star. They’re young too, but they’ve got some good players on that team.”

Nelson County is at home on Friday against North Star at Dakota Prairie. The Bearcats have struggled out the gate starting the season at 0-3, with their most recent loss coming to North Border, 46-44. 

Contact Jack Williams with any comments at jgwilliams@bsu.edu or on Twitter @jackgwilliams. 

Benson County Wildcat players warmup before a game against Nelson County on Sept. 5 at Leeds. The Wildcats lost to the Chargers, 54-22.

Next week's Lake Region football games

Sept. 11

Devils Lake vs. Watford City - 7 p.m. - at Devils Lake 

Benson County vs. St. John - 7 p.m. - at Leeds (Benson County)

North Star vs. Nelson County - 7 p.m. - at McVille (Nelson County)

No. 1 Langdon/Edmore/Munich vs. Rugby - 7 p.m. - at Langdon 

Sept. 12

Four Winds vs. Standing Rock - 5 p.m. - at Standing Rock