by Eric Fowler

The Holdingford Huskers will be making their 11th state football playoff appearance (2nd consecutive) this Saturday at Jake Christensen Stadium on the campus of Concordia College.  The 2nd year coach, Luke Mitchell, brought home a solid 32-14 win over Ottertail Central for his 2nd section championship.

Holdingford will be facing an experienced Hawley Nuggets squad that is making its 14th state playoff appearance.  Hawley has made the state playoffs 7 of the last 10 years but has not made it to the title game in that span.

Between the two clubs, they have amassed 25 state playoff appearances since the playoffs began in 1972.  However, you will find only one title out of those 25 tries which was claimed by the Huskers 30+ years ago in 1981 when they took Class "B" crown (todays equivalent of Class AA).

The Huskers are looking to breaking their streak of "1 and done" in the state playoffs.  They have been knocked out of the first round in their last five appearances ('90, '96, '99, '00 & '12).  The last time they went further than the first round was in '81 season with their championship run.

Last Friday the Huskers played inside the Fargodome at 5:30pm for the Section 6AA title and if any of them stuck around they would have been able to see the Hawley Nuggets soundly beat the previously undefeated Barnesville Trojan's 42-21 for the Section 8AA championship.

Peter Naatz is in his 14th season as Hawley Head Football Coach.  This is his 8th state playoff appearance for Hawley.  It is a tough task make it to the state playoffs but to get to this level more than half the time while on the job is quite the achievement.  When a smaller school has 2 or 3 injuries or maybe a family moves out of the district this might be enough to ruin a team's season.  I asked Coach Naatz what he attributes to the consistent success of his football teams.  He felt the "football IQ" of his kids is a big part of their success and if they don't have it when they show up at camp they definitely learn over the season.  He made it a point to state that we don't "overkill" football with the kids.  "We go as hard as we can during the season" coach Naatz stated but he noted that his ball players go onto other things when the are done and it is not a year round type of thing.

Coach Naatz was not able to watch the entire Holdingford / Ottertail Central game last Friday as he was traveling with his squad to the Fargodome.  From what he did see he felt that the Huskers were a "good sized" team with a lot of talented kids.  He noted that, "They like to throw a lot to #11" referring to Sr. running back Jordan Gombos a favorite target of Sr. quarterback Mitch Messman.  He felt that Messman was "a tough runner, not that fast but low to the ground".  He added this of Messman, "He can take care of a football game all by himself."

Now that 3 time defending champ Caledonia has been knocked off their 36 game win streak, it opens up the field a bit for Class AA.  Coach Naatz said, "It seems like the southern half of the state has been taking care of Class AA football for some time now" and "A lot of people are looking forward to playing in the championship game NOT against Caledonia".

He feels fortunate to have and extra day to prepare for this game against the Huskers "unusual" defense.  He finished up by remarking he really is hoping for good weather for Saturday afternoon's game in Moorhead.  He doesn't want weather to be a factor in this weekend's game.

Class AA Quarterfinals
6AA - Holdingford (11-0) vs. 8AA - Hawley (9-1) 1 p.m. Nov. 9 at Concordia College, Moorhead

Friday's Games:
5-Minneota/Lincoln (11-0) vs. 7-Moose Lake/Willow River (10-0) 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at Chisago Lakes Area School, Lindstrom
2-Pine Island (9-2) vs. 4-Maple Lake (7-4) 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at Richfield High School
1-Chatfield (10-1) vs. 3-Jackson County Central (10-1) 7 p.m. Nov. 8 at Rochester Community & Technical College.