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Hawley beats Pelican Rapids again for section 8-2A title

Hawley's Nathan Mattson runs past Pelican Rapids defender McKale Evenson on a big run during the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 championship game at the Fargodome Friday. The Nuggets beat the Vikings to earn another trip to the state quarterfinals. (Carrie Snyder/The Forum)

FARGO - For whatever reason, Hawley's pass rush disappeared for most of the fourth quarter on Friday.

Brantly Gram brought it back in the nick of time.

After watching a big second-half lead all but disappear, the Hawley junior forced a safety that clinched a 30-22 win over Pelican Rapids in the Class 2A, Section 8 championship game at the Fargodome.

"That's the biggest play I've ever made," Gram said. "I never even played that much varsity until this year. You could say I'm ecstatic."

It was the fourth year in a row the teams had met in for the section crown, and the fourth year in a row Hawley left with championship hardware.

Hawley (11-0) was up 28-7 with just 4 minutes, 29 seconds to play in the game when Pelican Rapids standout Tydan Storrusten started a frantic comeback.

The senior threw two touchdown passes in three plays - both to Matthew Skow-Anderson - in the next 1:10. He added another toss to Seth Lage for a two-point conversion to make it 28-22 with 3:19 to go.

Those two TD passes covered 132 yards, and one came on a double-reverse flea-flicker.

"They have such a potent offense that you can never relax," Hawley coach Peder Naatz said. "I was worried until I heard the official say 'You can take a knee.'"

After forcing a punt, Pelican Rapids (10-1) took the ball over on its own 8-yard line with 1:16 to play.

Enter Gram. On the Vikings' first play, the junior blasted through the line and wrapped up Storrusten - who was forced to throw the ball away in his own end zone. He was flagged for grounding, and that gave the Nuggets two points.

"Even at that point, when you look up and it's eight points, it felt like it was still in reach," Vikings coach Dave Haugen said. "...It was too big of a hole against too good of a team."

Hawley's offense was led by it's vaunted running attack. Nate Mattson rushed for 200 yards on 24 carries, and Kevin Olson added 161 yards on 22 carries. Mattson also had two touchdowns.

But this was the defense's night. Through the bulk of the first three quarters, Hawley held Storrusten and the Vikings in check with a frustrating pass rush.

The Nuggets recorded five sacks in the win, as well as two interceptions from Storrusten. The Vikings senior had only thrown one pick in his first 10 games this season.

"The pass rush was really big, because he's a guy that can throw all over you," said Jared Peters, who had two of the sacks. "We had to put pressure on him, and we were able to get enough of it."

Storrusten completed 17 of 27 for 269 yards and three touchdowns in the win. Skow-Anderson had five catches for 178 yards, and all three scores.

The Nuggets will take on Eden Valley-Watkins in the Class 2A semifinals at 7 p.m. on Friday in Morris, Minn.

Hawley 8 0 13 9 - 30

Pelican Rapids 0 0 7 15 - 22

H-Guida 11 pass from Sorenson (Sorenson run)

H-Mattson 15 run (kick failed)

H-Sorenson 2 run (Arens kick)

PR-Skow-Anderson 38 pass from Storrusten (Molina kick)

H-Mattson 17 run (Arens kick)

PR-Skow-Anderson 65 pass from Storrusten (Molina kick)

PR-Skow-Anderson 67 pass from Storrusten (Lage pass from Storrusten)

H-Safety. Intentional grounding in end zone.

RUSHING: H, Mattson 24-200, Olson 22-161, Sorenson 7-31, Guida 1-3. PR, Evenson 6-25, Haugen 1-2, Storrusten 11-(minus 2), Lage 3-(minus 3).

PASSING: H, Sorenson 2-6-0 14 yards. PR, Storrusten 17-27-2 269.

RECEIVING: H, Guida 2-14. PR, Skow-Anderson 5-178, Lage 3-27, Shulstad 4-24, Haugen 1-15, Sorum 2-12, Evenson 1-9, Bakken 1-4.