Football: Nevis expects to once again contend for section title

Another talented group returns to lead the Tigers.

Senior Ethan Klimek returns to lead Nevis' offense in 2022 as the starting quarterback.
Vance Carlson / Park Rapids Enterprise
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With another talented group returning, head coach Shawn Klimek is counting on the Nevis football team to make another run at winning the Section 6 9-man title this fall.

A year ago, the Tigers went 7-1 during the regular season to earn the No. 10 ranking in the state poll and the No. 2 seed for the section playoffs. After defeating No. 7 Cass Lake-Bena 55-0 in the quarterfinals, Nevis’ quest to reach the section championship game was denied with a 22-19 loss to No. 3 Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal in the semifinals to cap off an 8-2 season. No. 1 Fertile-Beltrami edged NCE/UH 26-20 in the section title game.

Nevis averaged 31.6 points a game while holding the opposition to 12.7 points a game. The Tigers had a nice balance offensively with 1,855 rushing yards and 1,331 passing yards while the defense forced 19 turnovers.

Five key spots will have to be filled with the graduation of Ian Ahrendt, Cain Mitchell, Aiden Thompson, Ethan Lewis and Nathan Pyburn. Ahrendt earned all-state 9-man honors and joined Mitchell and Thompson as District 9-West Central players while Lewis was an all-district honorable mention player.

Ahrendt, a four-year starter, led the Tigers by scoring 82 points and rushing 177 times for 1,178 yards and 13 touchdowns. Ahrendt also led Nevis’ defense with 93 tackles (including 50 solo tackles). Mitchell was Nevis’ leading receiver with 36 receptions for 596 yards and nine TDs while scoring 58 points. Mitchell also had 61 tackles (including 41 solo tackles) and intercepted three passes. Lewis rushed 17 times for 59 yards and caught three passes for 30 yards and a TD while tallying 72 tackles, including 38 solo tackles. Thompson started on the offensive and defensive lines, recording 42 tackles. Pyburn rushed four times for 16 yards and a TD.


Among the players being counted on to lead the Tigers to another winning season this fall are seniors Ethan Klimek and Nathan Keiser and junior Joe Houchin.

Klimek and Houchin return as District 9-West Central players while Keiser was an all-district honorable mention player a year ago. Klimek, who was named the district’s Special Teams Player of the Year, returns as the Tigers’ starting quarterback after completing 67 of 122 passes for 1,290 yards and 20 TDs and rushing 46 times for 406 yards and two TDs. Klimek also kicked 22 extra points while scoring 34 points. Houchin scored 42 points with 19 receptions for 480 yards and seven TDs and contributed 50 tackles, including 30 solo stops, and three interceptions as a defensive back on defense. Keiser returns to solidify the offensive and defensive lines after making 35 tackles as a lineman while starting at center last season.

Also back to claim their starting spots on offense are senior Luke McNamee (guard) and junior JohnPaul Benson (tight end) while Benson (lineman), junior Austin Ahrendt (outside linebacker) and sophomore Eli Klimek (who will move from end to linebacker) return as defensive starters.

Other players who played key roles last season include senior Jon Rice (wide receiver), junior Eli Lewis (wide receiver/defensive back), and sophomores Ayo Ogundeji (running back/linebacker) and Devan Lindow (back-up quarterback/linebacker).

Ogundeji scored 22 points, rushing 24 times for 148 yards and three TDs while Benson caught seven passes for 160 yards and two TDs. Eli Lewis (one carry for 46 yard and a TD), Rice (five carries for 29 yards), Austin Ahrendt (two carries for 15 yards and one reception for 21 yards and a TD) and Eli Klimek (five carries for 13 yards) filled back-up roles in the rushing and receiving departments last season. Austin Ahrendt (37 tackles, four interceptions), Eli Klimek (41 tackles, four quarterback sacks) and Benson (34 tackles, 4.5 sacks) will join Keiser and Houchin as the leaders on defense.

“Ethan will return to lead the team at quarterback this fall. With Nate in front of him starting at center for his second year in a row, we have a good nucleus to build on. Luke and JohnPaul also return up front and give us some nice size and experience. Joe returns to lead a talented group of wide receivers. We will be young at the running back position this season and I believe this is an area we will get better at as the season progresses,” said Klimek, who enters his 19th season at the Tigers’ head coach with a 96-60 record. “We feel that our defensive line, anchored by JohnPaul and Nate, will be a strength of this team. Another strength will be our secondary, led by Joe and Austin. Our linebackers are young and lack game experience. We will be looking for Eli (Klimek) along with Devan and Ayo to help replace the loss of Ian Ahrendt and Ethan Lewis.”

Competing for the other starting spots are seniors Dawson McGee (lineman) and TJ Johnson (lineman); juniors Jeff Krotzer (lineman), Christian Moe (wide receiver/safety), Connor Andress (lineman) and Lealan Norby (wide receiver/defensive back); sophomores Alex Lester (tight end/lineman), Blake Kowalke (lineman), Eli Lindow (running back/defensive back), Marshall Kalm (lineman) and Bennett Mitchell (running back/linebacker); and freshmen AJ Bessler (wide receiver/defensive back) and Karch Frazier (running back/linebacker).

The rest of the roster includes sophomores Brennan Snow (lineman), Will Gagnon (wide receiver/safety), JT Gagnon (wide receiver/safety) and Aiden Elinberg (lineman); and freshmen Ethan Buckholtz (wide receiver/safety), Payton Durgin (tight end/lineman), Eli Berstrom (wide receiver/defensive back), Cade Gross (tight end/linebacker), Elliot Harris (lineman) and Jesse Snow (lineman).


“This fall, we return several key starters on both sides of the ball. We have a good group with real gametime experience,” said Klimek, who will be assisted by Mike DeWulf, Matt Schmidt and Larry Franck. “We play in what we believe is one of the best districts/sections in the state. Come playoff time, we want to be in the mix with the likes of Fertile-Beltrami, Norman County East/Ulen-Hitterdal, and Blackduck. Keys to the season will be staying healthy up front and the development of the young running backs and linebackers.”

Winners to be announced at the NFL Honors event on Feb. 9

1982 Dawson-Boyd High School graduate
1987 Moorhead State University graduate
Sports reporter for Park Rapids Enterprise since 1987
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