Young Nuggets still expect to find success
The Hawley Nuggets are a bit greener than normal, but that still won't mean too much of a drop off in expectations for the traditionally successful program.
Returning only eight seniors, the Nuggets will be relying on youth in a number of positions, but the talent is still there -- just unproven.
"We'll have a lot of sophomore who will have a chance to play," said Hawley head coach Peder Naatz. "Some will have that wide-eye look when they play in their first varsity game, but after a few reps, they get more relaxed and it becomes more natural to them."
There will be a pair of sophomores who will be vying for quarterback duties in Jordan Harms (6-2, 151) and Ben Ellefson (6-4, 195). Both sophomores have good football instincts, while Ellefson will see action as a versatile player at safety, cornerback, wide receiver and tight end.
"Ben can make the position moves seamlessly and Jordan is a very athletic player who can also play different positions, as well," Naatz said. "Our offense is pretty simple, but we will be expanding on it a little with these two."
There will be some seasoning returning in the backfield with junior Chris Buttke (5-10, 197), along with seniors Alex Ames (6-0, 183) and Josh Johnson (6-2, 170) filling out the backfield.
Johnson will also see time at wide receiver and tight end, as well.
"We have different kind of runners in the backfield, with Buttke being that 200-pound rock, who runs straight ahead," Naatz said. "Alex has transformed from a straight-ahead runner, to more of a slasher runner with some breakaway speed."
Johnson is new to the running back position, but still possesses top-notch athleticism and big-play capability, the Hawley coach included.
But the key for the Nuggets, and always has been, the offensive line, which will have some size.
Jeff Christianson (6-2, 229) will be a three-year starter at guard, while senior Logan Stoa (6-6, 216) will be a force at a tackle position.
Junior Chris Ulschmid (6-2, 203), sophomore Logan Alm (6-2, 208), senior Nate Branden (5-9, 173) and senior Cody Curry (6-6, 185) will be the other anchors and hole-creators for the Nuggets.
The defense will once again be a staple of the Nuggets' success and the hope is by playoff time, they will be a hard unit to move the ball on.
The defensive line will be much of the same as the offensive line, with Alm, Stoa, Christianson and Branden being starters.
Ames and Buttke will be hard hitters at the inside linebacker positions, while Ellefson and junior Philip Teeples (6-4, 164) manning the outside positions.
Harms and junior Dalton Leaf (5-11, 147) will man the corners and Johnson the safety slot.
"We really just want to improve each week and be in the hunt for a section title," Naatz added. "But with our depth issue, if one starter gets hurt we'll be in trouble and if two get hurt, we'll be average."
Naatz sees the conference being very even, with the top teams beating up on each other.
"No one will be undefeated on our side of the conference," Naatz said. "We will need to compete each week and gut it out and play a lot of players both ways."
8/31 7:00 PM @ Park Rapids Area (8AAA)
9/7 7:00 PM Staples-Motley (8AAA)
9/14 7:00 PM Pelican Rapids (8AA)
9/21 7:00 PM @ Roseau (8AAA)
9/28 7:00 PM D-G-F H.S. (8AAA)
10/5 7:00 PM @ Breckenridge (6AA)
10/12 7:00 PM Pequot Lakes (8AAA)
10/17 7:00 PM @ Warroad (8AA)