The one thing the Nevis football team couldn't afford this season was having injuries.
Nevis entered the season having to replace eight seniors who led the way to an 11-2 record and the program's first trip to the state 9-man championship game a year ago. The Tigers were also without District 9 West North honorable mention tight end and defensive lineman Michael Landquist, who missed the entire season while recovering from an automobile accident.
That left only three players back who had extensive playing time last season. Those three players - seniors Ben Soldwisch and Keanu Yabandith and junior Luke DeWulf - were able to lead an inexperienced team to a 3-7 record.
Filling the other starting spots and providing depth this season were seniors Derek Dunham, Tre Ross and Leonardo Vignaroli; juniors Logan Funk, Dan Mistic, Chance Braton, Cooper Henry, Darin Keezer, Kolby Hamblin and Liam Andress; sophomores Derek Lindow, Reese Kline, Brodey Johnson, Dan Aman and Devin Arola-Johnson; and freshmen Ian Ahrendt, Nathan Pyburn, Ethan Lewis, Cain Mitchell, Bill Houchin, Dawson Andress, Tyler Lindow, Aiden Thompson and Nakhi Hollingsworth.
The Tigers opened the season rated No. 4 in the pre-season 9-man poll and used 409 yards in offense to spark a 36-21 win over Kittson County Central. After being held to 198 yards in a 48-6 loss to Win-E-Mac, Nevis compiled 442 yards in offense in a 32-8 victory over Laporte.
A five-game losing streak followed as the Tigers ended the regular season with a 2-6 record. Nevis jumped out to a 22-6 lead before Northern Freeze rallied for a 44-28 victory in Week 4. The Tigers compiled 425 yards in offense in that game. Clearbrook-Gonvick racked up 466 yards in offense in a 44-14 victory in Week 5 as the Tigers managed 286 yards offensively. Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal held the Tigers to 158 yards in a 28-0 victory in Week 6 before Goodridge-Grygla compiled 483 yards in a 40-28 victory in Week 7. Nevis had 310 yards in that game. Stephen-Argyle closed out the regular season with a 55-6 win as the Tigers were held to 229 yards while allowing 476.
Stephen-Argyle and Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal both went 8-0 to top the District 9 West (North) standings. Goodridge-Grygla and Win-E-Mac finished at 5-3 while Kittson County Central and Clearbrook-Gonvick tied at 4-4. Northern Freeze finished at 3-5, Nevis went 2-6, Warren-Alvarado-Oslo finished at 1-7 and Laporte went 0-8.
For the Section 6 playoffs, Nevis received the No. 3 seed and opened with a 35-8 win over No. 6 Laporte. Nevis led 35-0 at the half and compiled 326 yards in that game. The Tigers' season came to an end as Win-E-Mac, the No. 2 seed, held the Tigers to 122 yards in offense in a 35-6 win in the semifinals. NCE/UH, the No. 1 seed, defeated Win-E-Mac 30-20 in the section title game.
"We knew we were going to be young this year and maybe have some ups and downs," said Nevis head coach Shawn Klimek, whose team averaged 19.1 points a game while allowing 33.4. "We started off the season strong with a big win over KCC. What really hurt us this year was the injury bug. One example was we started the year with 12 linemen and finished the year with four."
DeWulf led the Tigers offensively by rushing 118 times for 747 yards and 11 touchdowns, catching 22 passes for 300 yards and two TDs, and completing 41 of 66 passes for 549 yards and two TDs.
Derek Lindow also played quarterback, completing 46 of 119 passes for 723 yards and six TDs while rushing 19 times for 79 yards and two TDs.
Also contributing to the rushing game were Yabandith (57 carries for 475 yards and three TDs), Braton (29 carries for 147 yards), and Kline (29 carries for 122 yards).
Soldwisch was the leading receiver, making 22 catches for 412 yards and three TDs. Yabandith caught 12 passes for 182 yards and three TDs, Funk had 15 receptions for 151 yards and Mistic caught 15 passes for 102 yards and one TD. Vignaroli kicked five extra points in the playoff win over Laporte.
Defensively, Soldwisch had 58 solo tackles and 21 assists, DeWulf had 55 solo tackles and 22 assists, Mistic made 46 solo tackles with 13 assists, Ahrendt had 45 solo tackles and 21 assists, Yabandith compiled 34 solo tackles and 12 assists, Dunham made 25 solo tackles with eight assists, Henry made 23 solo tackles and had five assists, Keezer had 22 solo tackles and 15 assists, and Braton tallied 20 solo tackles and seven assists.
Also playing key roles defensively were Kline (18 solo tackles, six assists), Ross (16 solo tackles, 12 assists), Funk (14 solo tackles, eight assists) and Liam Andress (12 solo tackles, eight assists).
The Tigers forced 15 turnovers with Funk intercepting two passes, Ahrendt recovering two fumbles and Mistic returning a fumble for a touchdown. DeWulf, Kline, Braton and Ross also had interceptions while Tyler Lindow, DeWulf, Funk, Dunham, Yabandith and Houchin also recovered fumbles.
Soldwisch and DeWulf received all-district honors while Yabandith was an all-district honorable mention player. Receiving team awards were DeWulf (MVP, Offensive Back of the Year and Defensive Back of the Year), Soldwisch (Offensive Lineman of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year), Vignaroli (Special Teams Player of the Year), Ahrendt (Freshman of the Year) and Aman (Coaches Award).
"Overall, I thought we improved a lot over the course of the year," said Klimek. "We really need to get into the weight room this off season so we are ready to go next fall. The experience we gained this year should help us out next fall."
NEVIS OFFENSIVE STATISTICS
RUSHING: L. DeWulf 118-747 (11 TDs), Yabandich 57-475 (3 TDs), Braton 29-147, Kline 29-122 (1 TD), D. Lindow 19-79 (2 TDs), Mitchell 15-21 (1 TD), Keezer 7-9, Ahrendt 6-8, Lewis 2-5, Vignaroli 1-(-1), Funk 2-(-2), Mistic 9-(-3).
PASSING: D. Lindow 46-119-0 for 723 yards; DeWulf 41-66-4 for 549 yards.
RECEIVING: Soldwisch 22-412 (3 TDs), DeWulf 22-300 (2 TDs), Funk 15-151, Mistic 15-102, Yabandith 12-182 (3 TDs), Kline 4-29, Braton 3-18, D. Lindow 2-19, Keezer 2-11, Henry 1-30.
NEVIS DEFENSIVE STATISTICS
SOLO TACKLES: Soldwisch 58, DeWulf 55, Mistic 46, Ahrendt 45, Yabandith 34, Dunham 25, Henry 23, Keezer 22, Braton 20, Kline 18, Ross 16, Funk 14, L. Andress 12, Johnson 8, Mitchell 6, Hamblin 5, D. Lindow 1, Pyburn 1, Lewis 1, Thompson 1, Houchin 1, Aman 1, D. Andress 1.
ASSISTED TACKLES: DeWulf 22, Ahrendt 21, Soldwisch 21, Keezer 15, Mistic 13, Ross 12, Yabandith 12, Funk 8, Dunham 8, L. Andress 8, Braton 7, Kline 6, Henry 5, Johnson 3, Hamblin 2, D. Andress 2, Mitchell 1, Pyburn 1, Lewis 1, Aman 1.
QUARTERBACK SACKS: Braton 2.
INTERCEPTIONS: Funk 2, DeWulf 1, Kline 1, Braton 1, Ross 1.
FUMBLE RECOVERIES: Ahrendt 2, T. Lindow 1, DeWulf 1, Funk 1, Dunham 1, Mistic 1 (1 TD), Yabandith 1, Houchin 1.