Having a starting lineup full of veteran seniors and playing a tougher schedule during the regular season were the key ingredients in cooking up a historic season for the Nevis 9-man football team.
The Tigers defeated three opponents ranked among the top-10 teams in the state during the regular season and earned their fifth trip to the state playoffs in school history by winning the Section 6 title. Nevis advanced to the state championship game for the first time in school history before capping off an 11-2 season with a 32-0 loss to Spring Grove in the 9-man title game at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis that kicked off the annual Prep Bowl.
Nevis entered the season rated No. 8 in the state poll and opened with a 14-0 win over Kittson County Central despite compiling only 209 yards in offense. That would prove to be the Tigers' lowest offensive output of the season. Nevis held an 8-0 lead at the break.
Nevis built a 40-0 lead and compiled 405 yards in a 46-12 win over Win-E-Mac in Week 2 before racking up 382 yards in a 44-12 win over Waubun, which was rated No. 1 in the state entering Week 3. The Tigers led 24-12 at the half in that game.
In Week 4, Nevis moved up to the No. 5 spot in the state poll and used 329 yards in offense to spark a 42-16 victory over Northern Freeze. The Tigers jumped out to a 42-0 halftime lead in that victory.
Nevis broke open a 14-14 tie for a 40-14 victory over Clearbrook-Gonvick in Week 5 behind an offense that finished with 419 yards.
Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal overcame a 14-8 halftime deficit to defeat the Tigers 20-14 in Week 6. NCE/UH, which was rated No. 8 in the state entering that game, held Nevis' offense to 292 yards.
The Tigers, who dropped to the No. 10 spot in the state poll, ended the regular season with a 26-6 win over Goodridge/Grygla in Week 7 and a 42-20 victory over Stephen-Argyle in Week 8. Nevis compiled 391 yards in the win over Goodridge/Grygla and compiled 445 yards in the win over Stephen-Argyle. The Tigers led 14-6 in the Week 7 win and overcame a 12-0 deficit to build a 28-12 halftime lead in the win over Stephen-Argyle, which was rated No. 3 in the state.
Nevis, Stephen-Argyle and NCE/UH shared the District 9 West North title with 7-1 records while Waubun finished at 6-2. Rounding out the district standings were Win-E-Mac (4-4), Kittson County Central (3-5), Clearbrook-Gonvick (2-6), Goodridge/Grygla (2-6), Warren-Alvarado-Oslo (2-6) and Northern Freeze (0-8).
Going 7-1 gave the Tigers the No. 1 seed and a first-round bye for the section tournament. Nevis advanced to the section title game by edging Waubun 6-0 in the semifinals before avenging the regular-season loss to NCE/UH with a 20-18 victory in the section championship game at the Fargodome. Nevis was held to 232 yards by Waubun, but racked up 407 yards in the win over NCE/UH, which trailed 14-12 at the half.
That victory sent the Tigers to the state 9-man playoffs for the fifth time in school history. Nevis opened the state tournament by building a 26-8 lead at the half and racking up 398 yards in offense in a 42-14 victory over No. 9 North Woods at Bemidji in the quarterfinals. That win marked Nevis' first victory in the state playoffs since defeating Tower-Soudan 30-8 in 1981. Nevis lost to Argyle 36-6 in the semifinals in the school's first trip to the state playoffs that year. Nevis fell in the quarterfinals in the next three state trips, losing to Littlefork-Big Falls 48-14 in 1990, losing to LeRoy-Ostrander 39-16 in 1993 and losing to South Ridge 24-18 in 2012.
The Tigers earned their first trip to the state title game by using a 32-8 halftime lead to spark a 44-16 victory over Russell-Tyler-Ruthton in the state semifinals at U.S. Bank Stadium. Nevis' offense finished with a season-high 525 yards in that victory.
The state championship game didn't go as well as Spring Grove backed up the state's No. 1 ranking and capped off an undefeated season with a 32-0 victory. Spring Grove led 26-0 at the half and held the Tigers to 250 yards in offense.
Leading the Tigers to their historic season were the starters during the state playoffs: seniors Jack DeWulf, Jack Landquist, Tucker Roehl, Kyle Schmidt, Zach Henry, Sam Hitchcock, Tom Wormley and Dillon McGee; juniors Ben Soldwisch, Michael Landquist and Keanu Yabandith; and sophomore Luke DeWulf.
Of that group, Jack DeWulf, Jack Landquist and Roehl were named to the 9-man all-state team while Schmidt was an all-state honorable mention selection. Those four were joined on the all-district team by Henry while Mike Landquist and Luke DeWulf were all-district honorable mention players. Jack DeWulf was named the district's MVP and Offensive MVP while Jack Landquist was named the district's Defensive MVP. Those two also earned all-state academic honors.
Leading the Tigers' offense this season were Jack Landquist at center; Hitchcock and Soldwisch at the guards; Wormley, Michael Landquist and Yabandith at the tight ends; Jack DeWulf at quarterback; Schmidt and Roehl at running back; and Henry and Luke DeWulf at wide receiver.
Jack DeWulf rushed 175 times for 1,141 yards and 12 touchdowns and completed 61 of 116 passes for 1,185 yards and 15 TDs while scoring 82 points.
Schmidt scored 90 points, rushing 208 times for 1,110 yards and 13 TDs while Roehl had 533 yards on 63 carries with five TDs for 36 points.
Henry was the team's leading receiver, catching 24 passes for 444 yards and seven TDs. Henry added 234 yards on 19 carries with four TDs while scoring 80 points. Luke DeWulf was second on the team in receptions with 18 for 398 yards and four TDs. DeWulf also rushed the ball 29 times for 260 yards and two scores, completed 6 of 18 passes for 111 yards and scored 48 points.
Michael Landquist had seven receptions for 157 yards and two TDs, Yabandith caught six passes for 157 yards and two TDs and Wormley had five receptions for 77 yards.
Leading the defense were Jack Landquist (81 solo tackles, 32 assists, six quarterback sacks), Michael Landquist (61 solo tackles, 37 assists, three fumble recoveries), Hitchcock (34 solo tackles, 39 assists, two sacks) and Wormley (17 solo tackles, 29 assists) on the line; Roehl (49 solo tackles, 45 assists, two interceptions, two fumble recoveries), Schmidt (38 solo tackles, 36 assists, three sacks, three interceptions), Jack DeWulf (37 solo tackles, 19 assists, four interceptions) and McGee (26 solo tackles, 24 assists) at linebacker; and Luke DeWulf (43 solo tackles, 18 assists, three interceptions) and Henry (24 solo tackles, 13 assists, five interceptions) in the secondary.
Also contributing to the Tigers' success this season were seniors Adam Thompson and Noah Veit; junior Brendan Henderson; sophomores Cameron Sherman, Logan Funk, Dan Mistic, Chance Braton, Cooper Henry, Darin Keezer, Liam Andress and Kolby Hamblin; and freshmen Derek Lindow, Reese Kline, Brodey Johnson and Dan Aman.
Team awards went to Jack DeWulf (MVP), Jack Landquist (Offensive and Defensive Lineman of the Year), Schmidt (Offensive Back of the Year), Roehl (Defensive Back of the Year), Luke DeWulf (Special Teams Player of the Year), Soldwisch (Coaches Award) and Kline (Freshman of the Year).