Top 5 area Minnesota girls and boys basketball rankings (Dec. 17)

The No. 5 spot on these rankings for girls and boys has become quite poisonous, so beware.

On the boys side, Battle Lake has a strong hold on the No. 1 spot, while Detroit Lakes and Moorhead will swap between No. 2 and No. 3 probably all season. On the girls side, Hawley and Ada-Borup are seemingly locked in at No. 1 and No. 2

Here are your area basketball rankings after a few weeks of basketball.



1. Battle Lake (6-0)

Last week: win at home over Parkers Prairie 75-35; win at Brandon-Evansville 66-34

Next up: host Perham, Friday, 7:30 p.m.; host Frazee, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Battle Lake had its closest game of the season against Brandon-Evansville. The Battlers won by 32.

The Battlers are yet to give up 40 points this season and are seemingly unstoppable right now.


2. Moorhead  (8-1)

Last week: win at home over Bemidji 77-35; win at home over Osseo 86-71

Next up: host Benilde-St. Margaret’s, Saturday, 1 p.m.

Matt Bye has been one of the leaders of the Moorhead boys basketball team that is currently 8-1. Photo by Dave Wallis/Forum

Moorhead and Detroit Lakes seemingly are going to dance between the No. 2 and No. 3 spots all season. The reasoning for Moorhead being ahead of DL is the the St. Michael-Albertville loss on the road for the Spuds is a little more forgivable than DL’s loss.

That being said, what doesn’t bode well for the Spuds is the fact St. Michael-Albertville is unavoidable in 8AAAA, whereas DL did not lose to a section opponent.

Spuds have a different guy each night seemingly step up. They have a solid starting five playing a lot of minutes right now.

In the first QRF rankings, Spuds are No. 10 in Class 4A, which is the highest ranking of any area boys basketball team.


3. Detroit Lakes (6-1)

Last week: win win at Pequot Lakes 60-43; loss at Minneapolis Washburn 65-53; win at home against Thief River Falls 78-58

Next up: at Alexandria, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; at Bemidji, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Another Detroit Lakes win and another big game for Ryan Cihak. Photo by Brian Basham/DL Newspapers

Big win over Thief River Falls for Detroit Lakes in the team’s section opener. Not much time for celebration because the Lakers have the other big section game against Alexandria on Saturday.

Lakers win that one and 8AAA will belong to them for the time being. Ryan Cihak continues to impress for the Lakers, as he dropped 25 against Thief River Falls.

Lakers took their first loss of the season, but it was to a 6AAA team, so that doesn’t hurt their chances of getting to state.


4. Hawley (5-2)

Last week: win at home over Fargo Oak Grove (N.D.) 82-55; winat Frazee 69-52

Next up: host Barnesville, Friday, 7:30 p.m.; at Thief River Falls, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Give Ben Ellefson (left) the ball down low and good things will happen. Hawley has won five straight. Photo by Dave Wallis/Forum

Ben Ellefson had 26 points and 11 rebounds in the win over Oak Grove and had 28 points against Frazee.

He’s headed to North Dakota State to play tight end next season, but he’s a load to handle in the paint as well.

Nuggets are 3-0 in section and have a big game against section rival Barnesville on Friday.


5. Park Christian (5-1)

Last week: win at Norman County East-Ulen-Hitterdal 62-52; win at Bagley 69-47

Next up: host Mahnomen, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; at Fargo Oak Grove (N.D.), Saturday, 4 p.m.; host Rothsay, Monday, 8 p.m.

Time to stop ignoring the Falcons. Not sure how they’re doing this with a first-year coach in Josh Lee and after losing four starters, but here we are.

Park Christian is 5-1 overall with their only loss coming to a team a class above them and they are 3-0 in 6A North.

Zach Kvalvog (the only name I still need to triple check after years of spelling) has been incredible. The junior point guard is averaging 19.5 points a game and has been the leading scorer in every game for the Falcons but one.

A rematch against Battle Lake for the 6A title would be very interesting. Scary thing is Park Christian has just three seniors this season.



1. Hawley (5-0)

Last week: win at Wadena-Deer Creek 68-42; win at Barnesville 67-45

Next up: host Norman County East-Ulen-Hitterdal, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; at Thief River Falls, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

The Nuggets are 5-0 overall and 4-0 in their section. Their closest game was a nine-point win over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton in which D-G-F closed the gap when back-ups were put in for the final 80 seconds of the game.

Guard Olivia Olson and center Mira Ellefson are simply impossible to stop. TRF is an interesting matchup for the Nuggets, but the Prowlers are also a class above the Nuggets, so a loss wouldn’t mean much for Hawley.

A win, however, would be extremely impressive.


2. Ada-Borup (5-0)

Last week: win at home over Red Lake County Central 85-21; win at Fosston 72-33

Next up: host Bagley, Friday, 6 p.m.; at Pelican Rapids, Monday, 6:30 p.m.

Speaking of destroying teams, here’s Ada-Borup. The Cougars’ closest win this season was by 16 points.

Hard to find a loss on Ada-Borup’s schedule until Feb. 17 when the Cougars play Hawley at Hawley.


3. Verndale (4-0)

Last week: win at home over Bertha-Hewitt 52-34; win at Swanville over Royalton 48-37

Next up: at Henning, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.

Verndale keeps rolling behind Sarah Moenkedick and Jordyn Glenz. The Pirates are 4-0 and 3-0 in 5A North.


4. Wheaton-Herman-Norcross (6-1)

Last week: win at Hancock 61-43; win at Lidgerwood tournament over Hankinson (N.D.) 29-25; loss at Lidgerwood tournament to Fairmount-Campbell-Tintah 60-43

Next up: vs. Wyndmere-Lidgerwood (N.D.) at Lidgerwood Tournament,Thursday, 7 p.m.; at Battle Lake, Monday, 7:30 p.m.

Warriors haven’t lost to a team from Minnesota yet and are 2-0 in section play.


5. Detroit Lakes (3-1)

Last week: win at home over Fergus Falls 72-48; loss at home against Thief River Falls 71-65

Next up: host Park Rapids, Friday, 7:15 p.m.

Thief River Falls will be standing in the way of DL getting a section title until the Lakers prove otherwise. Photo by Brian Basham/DL Newspapers

Still not ready to give up on Detroit Lakes just yet. The Lakers suffered a tough loss to TRF in what could be a section title game preview.

The Lakers started the game on an 11-0 run, but TRF answered. It was 68-65 TRF late and the Prowlers iced it from the free-throw line.

TRF is a team Detroit Lakes has to get over if they want a section title. The Lakers have lost six of the last seven against the Prowlers.

Chris Murphy can be reached at 701-241-5548 or Follow him on Twitter @SeeMurphsTweets for Minnesota prep updates and smart alecky remarks about sports, movies, music and life in general.

Top 5 area Minnesota girls and boys basketball rankings (Dec. 10)

With Wheaton-Herman-Norcross losing to Park Christian and getting rolled by Battle Lake, there’s a bit of a shakeup in the boys top five. Moorhead added to the girls top five.

Here’s your top area Minnesota girls and boys basketball teams for the week of Dec. 10.



1. Battle Lake (4-0)

Last week: win at Rothsay 86-28; win at Wheaton-Herman Norcross 63-23

Next up: host Parkers Prairie, Friday, 7:30 p.m.; at Brandon-Evansville, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Safe to say Battle Lake has a strong hold on Section 6A. Wheaton-Herman-Norcross may have been who they faced in the section title game.

The Battlers would be more than happy with that after a 40-point dismantling of the Warriors. Pick your poison on who to guard in Andrew VanErp, Petric VanErp, Tony Ukkelberg and Nick Trosdahl.

It most likely won’t work out well.


2. Detroit Lakes

Last week: win at home over Crosby-Iron 60-50; win at home over Wadena-Deer Creek 96-22

Next up: at Pequot Lakes, Friday, 7:15 p.m.; at Minneapolis Washburn, Saturday, 3 p.m.; host Thief River Falls, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Lakers look strong in the early part of the season. Photo by Brian Basham/DL Newspapers

Still no road games or section games for Detroit Lakes, but the Lakers are cruising, recently winning by 74. The Lakers will get a taste of section when they face off against Thief River Falls, which could be a preview of the section title game.

Christian Hedstrom has led DL in scoring in all four wins.


3. Moorhead (6-1)

Last week: won at home over Rogers 66-50; lost at St. Michael-Albertville 70-59

Next up: host Bemidji, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; host Osseo, Saturday, 3 p.m.

Spuds suffered their first loss of the season. Time to see how they respond. Photo by Dave Wallis/Forum

For the first time this season, the Spuds lost. Unfortunately for Moorhead it comes against a section opponent in St. Michael-Albertville.

Could be a preview for the 8AAAA championship game.


4. Hawley (3-2)

Last week: win at Ada-Borup 84-51; win at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 68-43

Next up: host Oak Grove (N.D.), Friday, 7:30 p.m.; at Frazee, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Hawley has won three straight since losing by a combined six points to Detroit Lakes and Fergus Falls, both of which play in the class above the Nuggets.

More importantly, they are 2-0 in 8AA with double-digit wins at Breckenridge and at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton.


5. Hillcrest Lutheran Academy (4-0)

Last week: win at home over Ashby 92-29; win at Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley 74-23

Next up: at Rothsay, Friday, 7:30 p.m.; at Parkers Prairie, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

The Comets have won four section games to start the season by 47, 24, 63 and 41 points. Jake Issac has led the way with more than 22 points per game.



1. Hawley (3-0)

Last week: win at home over Breckenridge 58-41; win at home over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 69-60

Next up: at Wadena-Deer Creek, Thursday, 7:15 p.m.; at Barnesville, Monday, 7:30 p.m.

Hawley’s Mira Ellefson may be hurting in this picture, but she’s hurting defenses in the early part of the season. Photo by David Samson/Forum

Hawley is tough to guard.

Olivia Olson had 22 points against D-G-F and did it driving to the hole and shooting from the outside. Mira Ellefson can get to the rim at will and while defenses are attempting to guard those two, Jody Noreen can drive, Brittany Laddusaw can hit a 3-pointer and ignore Karyssa Hovelson down low and she’ll make you pay.

With Hovelson cleaning up the boards – she had 14 against D-G-F – that leaves Ellefson free to work the post.

Not much the Nuggets can’t do.


2. Ada-Borup (3-0)

Last week: win at Hillsboro-Central Valley (N.D.) 60-31; win at Norman County East-Ulen-Hitterdal 75-59

Next up: host Red Lake County Central, Monday, 7:30 p.m.; at Fosston, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Ada-Borup won its first section game by 16 against NCE-U-H behind 26 points from Lexi Merkens, 12 points from Morgan Miller and 13 points from Haley Poehler.

The well-oiled machine that is the Cougars basketball team continues. They have not lost back-to-back games since March 17-18 of 2006 at the Class 1A state tournament. They’ve played 245 games since.


3. Verndale (2-0)

Last week: win at Pillager 60-42; win at home over Menahga 68-45

Next up: host Bertha-Hewitt, Friday, 6:30 p.m.; Royalton Tournament, Monday, 6 p.m.

The Pirates set a program record for wins with 25 last season and have seven of nine varsity players back, including four of five starters.

Pirates are experienced and still somewhat young.


4. Detroit Lakes (2-0)

Last week: win at Alexandria 56-49; win at Wadena-Deer Creek 58-18

Next up: host Fergus Falls, Saturday, 7:30 p.m.; host Thief River Falls, Tuesday, 6 p.m.

Shay Nielsen (ball) is going to be tough to guard all season for opponents. Photo by Eric Morken/Echo Press

Detroit Lakes isn’t messing around in the early part of its schedule. The Lakers have already beaten section rivals Alexandria and will take on 4-0 Thief River Falls on Tuesday in what could be a preview of the section championship.

DL had three in double digits in scoring behind 12 each from Hailey Jorgenson and Grace Swenson and 11 from Shay Nielsen in the opener against Alexandria.


5. Moorhead (4-0)

Last week: win at home over Fergus Falls 63-59; win at Fargo South (N.D.) 63-55; win at home against Brainerd 65-58

Next up: at St. Michael-Albertville, Thursday, 7:15 p.m.; host Buffalo, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Spuds were supposed to be a couple years away, but they’re 4-0 and freshman Sam Haiby looks like the real deal. She’s scored 27, 32, 18 and 30 in the Spuds four wins.

Big test coming against St. Michael-Albertville. If Moorhead keeps it close, they could be closer to competing than expected.

Chris Murphy can be reached at 701-241-5548 or Follow him on Twitter @SeeMurphsTweets for Minnesota prep updates and smart alecky remarks about sports, movies, music and life in general. 

Top 5 area Minnesota girls and boys basketball rankings (Dec. 3)

With some boys basketball games in the books and girls basketball games beginning, the season is fully underway. Here’s a look at the top five Minnesota girls and boys basketball teams in the area in the early going.



1. Battle Lake (2-0)

Last week: won at Hancock 82-33; won at Ashby 100-39

Next up: at Rothsay, Friday, 7:30 p.m.; at Wheaton-Herman-Norcross, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Battle Lake had four guys in double digits in scoring in their opening win of the season with Tony Ukkelberg with 26, Andrew VanErp with 16, Petric VanErp with 14 and Nick Trosdahl with 10.

Those four will lead Battle Lake all season. They are incredibly athletic and can jump out of the building. In their second win of the season, Petric VanErp dropped 27, Ukkelberg had 20 and Trosdahl had 18.

Wheaton-Herman-Norcross will be a good test to see just how big of a hold the Battlers have on Section 6A.


2. Moorhead (5-0)

Last week: won at Brainerd 62-54; won at home over Alexandria 69-47; won at Buffalo 74-53; won at Anoka-Ramsey over Elk River 62-60; won at Fergus Falls 84-59

Next up: host Rogers, Friday, 7:30 p.m.; at St. Michael-Albertville, Tuesday, 7:15 p.m.

Matt Bye (left) and Nick Wiesmann (ball) have helped the Spuds to a 5-0 start. Photo by Dave Wallis/Forum

It’s been an exciting time to be a Spud to open this basketball season. Moorhead opened with a come-from-behind win over Brainerd, rolled Alexandria, Buffalo and Fergus Falls and used a buzzer beater to beat Elk River.

The scoring has come from all over the place between Shane Steckler , who had seven 3-pointers in the first half and tied the school record with eight against Buffalo, Matt Bye, who hit the buzzer beater against Elk River and Cody Dorow, who has scored 29, 26, 23, 16 and 22 for the Spuds.

A huge addition in the starting lineup has been Leif Engen, who is turning into a double-double machine, down low next to big man Nick Wiesmann.

Last season, it took the Spuds 12 games to get five wins and they finished 4-3 in Section 8AAAA. Spuds are 5-0 and 3-0 in section.


3. Detroit Lakes (2-0)

Last week: won at home over Hawley 84-83; won at home over Staples-Motley 93-57

Next up: host Crosby-Ironton, Friday, 7:15 p.m.; host Wadena-Deer Creek, Tuesday, 7:15 p.m.

DL’s Ryan Cihak (31) was the hero in the Lakers 84-83 win over Hawley to open the season. He hit a 3-pointer with 12 seconds to go. Photo by Brian Basham/DL Newspapers

DL won the opener against Hawley that featured 20 seniors. The Lakers trailed 72-55 wtih 7:48 to go, but came back and won.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that was to 2A Hawley, which is a class below 3A DL. Hawley has a lot of weapons, but they also lost to DL’s 8AAA rival Fergus Falls 82-77.

DL has weapons of its own. Christian Hedstrom had 23, Ryan Cihak had 18, Corbin Duncan had 15 and Sam Champa had 10 against Hawley. Lakers have size, seen in the fact they held 6-foot-4, 220-pound North Dakota State tight end commit Ben Ellefson to just 13 points.

Hedstrom had 18, Ben Hokanson had 18 and Cihak had 10 in the Game 2 win for the Lakers.


4. Wheaton-Herman-Norcross (2-0)

Last week: won at home over Ashby 66-55; won at Rothsay 58-44

Next up: host Park Christian, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; host Battle Lake, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

W-H-N lost four of its 26 games last season, two of which came to Battle Lake in terrible fashion 71-32 and 74-45.

That will be the problem for the Warriors. Can Carson Maudal, Jacob Pederson, Bailey Anderson and company compete with Battle Lake? Will find that out Tuesday.


5. Hawley (1-2)

Last week: lost 84-83 at Detroit Lakes; lost at home against Fergus Falls 82-77; won at Breckenridge 68-57

Next up: at Ada-Borup, Friday, 7:30 p.m.; at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Friday, 7:30 p.m.

Hawley suffered two tough losses against Class 3A teams to start the season, but came back to beat section rival Breckenridge. Photo by Brian Basham/DL Newspapers

Not quite ready to give up on Hawley just yet. There’s a good chance this No. 5 spot switches between Barnesville, W-H-N, Hawley, Hillcrest Lutheran Academy, Fergus Falls and maybe even Breckenridge.

The benefit of the doubt right now is going to Hawley. The Nuggets blew a 17-point lead in the second half to Detroit Lakes in the opener. The Nuggets had a 14-point deficit they closed to two in the second half against Fergus Falls, but could get no closer. Those losses are frustrating, but forgivable, considering both teams play in the class above Hawley.

The Nuggets got first-year coach Nathan Stoa his first win over Breckenridge in a game in which they trailed by 17 thanks to a career-high 29 points from Aaron Regnier.

Nuggets got 31 points from Ben Ellefson in the loss to Fergus Falls and 25 points from Dillon Omberg in the loss against Detroit Lakes. They certainly got weapons.



1. Hawley (1-0)

Last week: win at home over Lake Park-Audubon 59-14

Next up: host Breckenridge, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; host Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Karyssa Hovelson (center) gives Hawley size alongside Mira Ellefson. Photo by Michael Vosburg/Forum

Mira Ellefson and Olivia Olson nearly outscored the entire Lake Park-Audubon team with 13 points each in the season opener for the Nuggets. Nuggets outrebounded LP-A 30-17 and forced 36 turnovers.

There’s a whole lot of seniors on this Nuggets team. They got size, they can shoot, they can create their own shot and all coach Bill Gottenborg’s teams know defense.

Don’t see Hawley losing the No. 1 spot anytime soon.


2. Ada-Borup (1-0)

Last week: win at home over Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 64-44

Next up: at Hillsboro-Central Valley, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; at Norman County East-Ulen-Hitterdal, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Haley Poehler (ball) had eight points in Ada-Borup’s season opener. Photo by Michael Vosburg/Forum

If Hawley were to trip up, Ada-Borup will be waiting to move into that No. 1 spot.

As they normally do, Ada-Borup’s scoring came from all over the place in their season opener. Lexi Nelson had 15 points, Lexi Merkens had 13 points, Miki Lee had 12 points and Morgan Miller and Haley Poehler each had eight points.

This is what the Cougars do. They get up big, give younger players playing time and the train rolls on. That was a Class 2A D-G-F team that Class 1A Ada-Borup just rolled by 20.


3. Pelican Rapids

Last week: no games

Next up: Tip-off Class, Saturday, at Hokpins vs. Dover-Eyota, 6 p.m.; at Perham, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

Mackenzie Korf (ball) will make her return this season after tearing her ACL in February. Photo by Chris Murphy/Forum

No games yet for Pelican Rapids. The Vikings wait for Mackenzie Korf’s first game since tearing her ACL on Feb. 22.


4. Verndale

Last week: no games

Next up: at Pillager, Thursday, 7:30 p.m.; host Menahga, Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.

No games yet for Verndale, as the Pirates return senior Elyssa Kern, juniors Jordyn Glenz, Sarah Moenkedick and Keila Schmitz, along with sophomore Shania Glenz.

They were young last season and went 25-4. This season, the Pirates are experienced and are built for an even bigger push in two years.


5. Detroit Lakes

Last week: no games

Next up: at Alexandria, Friday, 7:30 p.m.; at Wadena-Deer Creek, Tuesday, 7:15 p.m.

DL has plenty of returning weapons in search of their first section title since 2009. Photo by Brian Basham/DL Newpspapers

New York Mills drops out of the top five after a big loss to Perham. Could be a lot of rotating at the No. 5 spot in the girls’ rankings, but DL could provide some stability.

The Lakers have three returning starters, including Shay Nielsen, who averaged 17 points and nine rebounds last season. She’s headed to the University of Minnesota for shot put next season, so there’s plenty of strength in the middle. She also had 470 points last season to set the school record for points in a season.

When defenses collapse on Nielsen, the Lakers have seniors Kyley Foster and Hailey Jorgenson and junior Kyra Vagle for her to dish the ball to for jumpers.

DL has their returning points leader in Nielsen, assist/steals leader in Foster and 3-point specialist in Jorgenson, who hit 33.9 percent of her 3-pointers, back from a team that won 20 games.



Chris Murphy can be reached at 701-241-5548 or Follow him on Twitter @SeeMurphsTweets for Minnesota prep updates and smart alecky remarks about sports, movies, music and life in general.

Top 5 area Minnesota girls and boys basketball preseason rankings

The season begins with Battle Lake at the top of the area boys basketball rankings in Minnesota and Hawley at the top of the girls rankings.

Here’s why:



1. Battle Lake

Last season: 27-1, lost in Class 1A, Section 6 championship to Park Christian 62-59

This was the scene Battle Lake had to watch in the section championship as Park Christian celebrated going to state. Photo by David Samson/Forum

That one on the end of the record is going to sting Battle Lake for awhile. The Battlers were ranked No. 2 in Class 1A and the only undefeated team in Minnesota when Park Christian beat them by three in the section title game.

Worst part about it was Battle Lake was without starting senior shooting guard Daniel Marso and his replacement missed two free throws with 59.4 seconds to go that would have tied the game.

The Battlers lose Tyler Ukkelberg and Marso to graduation, but return three starters. Petric VanErp, Tony Ukkelberg, Andrew VanErp and Nick Trosdahl should lead the way. Battlers also have Micah Rogness for more size down low if Trosdahl isn’t enough.


2. Hawley

Last season: 15-11, lost in Class 2A, Section 8 subsection semifinals to Perham 66-55

Ben Ellefson was a double-double machine last season for Hawley. He returns for his senior year. Photo by Darren Gibbins/Forum

Last season was a nightmare season for Hawley. Came in highly ranked, started 4-8, had some starters quit in the middle of the season and finished 15-11.

Hawley has a new coach, size and seniors. There was just two seniors on the team last season, but eight juniors.

Ben Ellefson averaged 24.1 points and 11 rebounds last season for the Nuggets. He returns, along with seniors Jordan Harms, Dawson Tusow, Aaron Regnier, Ben Steichen and Dillon Omberg.

Expectations have been all over this senior group for football and basketball since they were sophomores. This is their last season.


3. Moorhead

Last season: 12-12, lost in Class 4A, Section 8 first round to St. MIchael-Albertville 75-60

Cody Dorow fell one point short of the Moorhead school record for points in a season as a junior. He returns with a lot of colleges looking at him. Photo by Darren Gibbins/Forum

Moorhead was full of juniors last season and return 70 percent of their scoring from last season.

Much of that comes from shooting guard Cody Dorow, who fell one point short of the school record for points in a season. Aaron Lien’s record was 689 points in 26 games. Dorow had 688 in 24 games. The knock on Dorow is his defense, so he decided to play football for the first time ever this season. One would imagine that toughened him up, seeing as colleges were looking at him for football after three games at wide receiver.

Around Dorow will be guard Shane Steckler, forward Matt Bye and big man Nick Weismann, all of whom saw a lot of playing time last season. This is a very experienced Spuds team with two players (Dorow, Weismann) getting a lot of attention from colleges.


4. Detroit Lakes

Last season: 18-9, lost in Class 3A, Section 8 first round to Fergus Falls 47-43 in overtime

Ben Hokanson gives Detroit Lakes a lot of size down low. Photo by Brian Basham/DL Newspapers

Season ended on a terrible note for Detroit Lakes, losing in overtime in a game the Lakers led 30-22 at halftime. Good thing there was a lot of juniors on that team to come back a season later with that memory.

As a sophomore, Ryan Cihak had 285 points. He was the leading DL scorer as a junior. He’s now a senior, as is Sam Champa, Corbin Duncan, Christian Hedstrom and Connor Johnson, all of whom saw playing time last season. In fact, 12 of the 15 players on DL’s roster are seniors.

As for size, there’s 6-foot-5, 290-pound Briton Thompson, 6-foot-5, 200-pound Trey Lyngaas and 6-foot-7 Ben Hokanson.


5. Breckenridge

Last season: 12-14,lost in Class 2A, Section 8 first round to Hawley 73-61

The Cowboys started last season 3-11. They closed the season winning nine of 12.

Forward Nate Lorenz surpassed 1,000 career points in the season finale and is 158 away from the school record. He’s already the school’s all-time leader in rebounds, averaging about 12 rebounds a game. He’s committed to the University of Minnesota-Crookston to play basketball.

With Lorenz and Nate Blaufuss, the Cowboys have their senior leaders. Junior guard Ashton Hegge came on strong at the end of last season, so he could be the X-factor for the Cowboys.

Season starts tough at Fergus Falls, Perham and Wahpeton and hosting Hawley and Barnesville.



1. Hawley

Last season: 21-7, lost in the Class 2A, Section 8 championship to Pequot Lakes 81-64

Jody Noreen returns for her senior year at point guard for Hawley. Photo by David Samson/Forum

Hawley was one game away from the state tournament and the Nuggets had one senior.

The Nuggets return everyone, including senior point guard Jody Noreen and senior shooting guard Olivia Olson. Junior Mira Ellefson is 5-foot-10 and can be seen in the post or bringing up the ball. The Nuggets also have 6-foot senior Karyssa Hovelson.

This could be a huge season for Hawley.


2. Ada-Borup

Last season: 28-2, lost in the Class 1A quarterfinals to Goodhue 65-58

Miki Lee (left) returns to help Ada-Borup revamp their starting lineup. Photo by Dave Wallis/Forum

Ada-Borup has won seven section titles in the last nine seasons. The Cougars lose their ball handlers in Monica Vega and Shaina Stevenson and post Haley Gehrtz, but return starting forward Haley Poehler.

The Cougars destroyed teams last season, so everyone got playing time, meaning seniors Lexi Merkens and Miki Lee and junior Morgan Miller are ready to take over starting roles.


3. Pelican Rapids

Last season: 19-7, lost in the Class 2A, Section 8 first round to Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton 75-71 in overtime

Pelican Rapids was never the same after guard Mackenzie Korf tore her ACL. She’s back for this season. Photo by Darren Gibbins/Forum

Pelican Rapids was ranked No. 9 in Class 2A and 18-2 before they lost sophomore guard Mackenzie Korf to a torn ACL. She was averaging nearly 25 points a game for the Vikings.

From there, the Vikings went 1-5 and were out in their first playoff game. Good news is Pelican Rapids had just three seniors on last season’s team and have a lot of talented post players back, mainly in senior Lincoln Haiby and junior Grace Forsgren.


4. New York Mills

Last season: 19-6, lost in the Class 1A, Section 6 subsection semifinals to Lake Park-Audubon 61-47

Lydia Rutten (left) and her sister Ellie will lead New York Mills this season. Photo by David Samson/Forum

New York Mills has sisters Ellie Rutten and Lydia Rutten. Ellie is a 6-foot-1 senior and Lydia is a 6-foot sophomore.

They are a tough combo to stop. Opponents are happy, after this season, half of the duo will be gone.


5. Verndale

Last season: 25-4, lost in the Class 1A, Section 5 subsection championship to Browerville 79-54

Verndale had just two seniors on last season’s team. The Pirates return senior Elyssa Kern, juniors Jordyn Glenz, Sarah Moenkedick and Keila Schmitz, along with sophomore Shania Glenz.

They were young last season and still went 25-4. This season, the Pirates are built to be scary and should be even scarier in two years.

Chris Murphy can be reached at 701-241-5548 or Follow him on Twitter @SeeMurphsTweets for Minnesota prep updates and smart alecky remarks about sports, movies, music and life in general.

NDSU commit Ben Ellefson gets offer from Purdue

Ben Ellefson picked up an offer from Purdue on Friday. Photo by Dave Wallis/Forum

Hawley senior Ben Ellefson picked up an offer Friday from Purdue. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound tight end and linebacker for Hawley gave a verbal commitment to North Dakota State on July 11 and said that commitment hasn’t changed.

“It doesn’t change my commitment right now,” Ellefson said.

Ellefson had offers from Air Force, Fordham, New Mexico, Wyoming and South Dakota State before committing to NDSU.

Purdue is the first offer he’s received after verballing to NDSU.



Ben Ellefson finished with over 1,000 yards receiving and 15 touchdowns in his junior and senior seasons at Hawley Photo by Mike Vosburg/Forum

Here are the stats for Ellefson in his junior and senior seasons at Hawley.

Games: 23

Passing: 4-for-9 for 110 yards with a touchdown and an interception

Rushing: 75 rushes, 467 yards, 11 touchdowns

Receiving: 60 catches, 1,122 yards, 15 touchdowns

Defense: 141.5 tackles, five interceptions, 4.5 sacks, 17.5 tackles for loss

Chris Murphy can be reached at 701-241-5548 or Follow him on Twitter @SeeMurphsTweets for Minnesota prep updates and smart alecky remarks about sports, movies, music and life in general.


Live blog: Minnesota section championships at the Fargodome

Live Blog Minnesota football playoffs at Fargodome


  • 9-man, Section 8 championship: No. 4 Kittson County Central vs. No. 3 Win-E-Mac, 12:30 p.m.
  • 9-man, Section 6 championship: No. 5 Norman County East-Ulen-Hitterdal vs. No. 2 Nevis, 3 p.m.
  • Class 3A, Section 8 championship: No. 1 Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton vs. No. 2 Pequot Lakes, 5:30 p.m.
  • Class 1A, Section 8 championship: No. 1 Mahnomen vs. No. 2 Fosston, 8 p.m.


  • 9-man, Section 4 championship: No. 1 Verndale (9-1) vs. No. 2 Underwood (9-1), 12:30 p.m.
  • Class 1A, Section 6 championship: No. 1 Upsala-Swanville (10-0) vs. No. 2 Royalton (9-1), 3 p.m.
  • Class 2A, Section 6 championship: No. 1 Ottertail Central (9-1) vs. No. 2 Holdingford (7-3), 5:30 p.m.
  • Class 2A, Section 8 Championship: No. 1 Hawley (9-0) vs. No. 2 Frazee (9-1), 8 p.m.

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State champion contendors in Minnesota football

With the playoffs beginning today, here’s a look at the football teams in the area with the best chance of winning a state title.



Mahnomen (8-0)

Mahnomen has plenty of reason for pride with the longest active winning streak in the state heading into the 2014 playoffs. Photo by David Samson/Forum

Until Mahnomen proves otherwise, Class 1A belongs to the Indians. They’ve won 36 straight games and two straight state titles. They’ve been ranked No. 1 in the AP polls every week except one.

The Indians have outscored teams 361-40 this season with the closest game being a 21-point win against Fosston in Week 3. Fosston is the No. 2 seed in Class 1A, Section 8, so the Indians’ fifth straight section title seems imminent.

The health of quarterback Tom Pavek is big for the Indians. They proved this season they can win without him, but they can roll teams with him.


Hawley (8-0)

Hawley is look for its first team state title to call their own. Photo by Dave Samson/Forum

This is what the Nuggets have been waiting for. Even last season when the Nuggets were good enough to make it to the Class 2A quarterfinals, they still had this season in the back of their heads with returning seniors all over the field.

Their offensive line is healthy with senior Logan Alm back. Senior Cody Cook has been a monster defensively with 42 tackles, 5.5 sacks, 13 tackles for loss on the season.

Quarterback Jordan Harms and tight end/North Dakota State commit Ben Ellefson are seniors. Running back Dillon Omberg is a senior.

Omberg’s health is the one question heading into the playoffs. He hurt his ankle in Week 7, didn’t play Week 8, but is practicing again this week. Coach Peder Naatz says he isn’t sure if or how much Omberg will play in the section semifinals.

If it ends up being Hawley-Frazee in the section title game, the Nuggets will need Omberg.


Waubun (8-0)

This is the Waubun offense behind Jordan Spaeth (left) and Ryan Weber (right). All teams know it. No team has stopped it. Photo by Dave Wallis/Forum

Teams simply can’t stop Waubun’s read-option offense with Jordan Spaeth at QB and Ryan Weber at running back.

When Norman County East-Ulen-Hitterdal somewhat stopped it, the Bombers proved they could adjust. That was the only game Waubun ever trailed in this season.

There’s a lot of talk about the read-option offense, but the defense, behind Weber and Dairus Woods-Steichen, has given up 47 points all season.

Bombers haven’t won a section title since 2007.



Moorhead (7-1)

Jade Lawrence leads Moorhead into the playoffs Saturday. Photo by David Samson/Forum

Cody Dorow has made the Moorhead offense balanced in his first year ever playing football this season. Photo by David Samson/Forum

Getting to the section title game is what Moorhead coach Kevin Feeney does. He’s been at Moorhead for four years, been to four section title games and won two of them. He even did that last season when the Spuds had lost 31 seniors from the season before.

Last season’s team was young. This season’s Spuds are experienced. And the scary thing is, the Spuds have a lot of juniors.

There’s no looking toward next season for running back Jade Lawrence, wide receiver Cody Dorow. They are the playmakers for the Spuds and this is it for these two seniors, along with Ben Lien, Brandon Bundgaard, Ethan Marquart and Brady Emerson, all of which are big pieces to Moorhead.

Moorhead was cruising through the season until a 56-21 loss to Brainerd. Questions began and the Spuds answered them with a 52-25 win over Bemidji.

So Bemidji destroyed Brainerd 40-14, Brainerd destroyed Moorhead and Moorhead destroyed Bemidji. Lucky for Moorhead, the Spuds wouldn’t seen any Class 5A, Section 7 team until the state title game and the Spuds would gladly take that.

Spuds will most likely have to get by a Sartell team they haven’t faced this season. The Sabres, however, lost to Bemidji 31-0.


Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton (6-2)

D-G-F’s defense has given up eight points in its last three games. Photo by Mike Vosburg/Forum

D-G-F does what’s big with the weather this time of year. The Rebels run the ball and play defense. The Rebels have given up eight points in their last three games, including a 13-0 shutout at Pequot Lakes, who the Rebels will most likely see in the section championship.

The Rebels have 1,842 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns on the ground between Brandon Wayne, Alex Matthews and Joe Flatt.

D-G-F hasn’t won back-to-back section titles since Dilworth did it in 1988 and 1989.


Ottertail Central (7-1)

This was the scene last season when Holdingford knocked off Ottertail in the section championship game. Bulldogs are looking for redemption. Photo by David Samson/Forum

The Bulldogs have won seven straight and given up 18 points in those seven games. OTC will probably have to get by Holdingford in the section title game.

The two haven’t faced this season, but OTC will be out for revenge after losing to Holdingford in last season’s section title game.


Verndale (7-1)

Dillon Card (right) will lead Verndale to possible redemption over last season’s section championship loss. Photo by David Samson/Forum

Pirates remember this feeling. They’ve waited to redeem last season’s 13-12 loss on the final play of regulation to Underwood in the section championship since it happened.

Behind quarter back Dillon Card and running back Colter Ehrmantraut the Pirates can do just that. They’ve already beaten Underwood this season 14-13 in overtime. It’s shaping up for a rematch.



Underwood (7-1)

It was this extra point at the end of regulation that ended Verndale’s season in a 13-12 loss to Underwood with state on the line. Photo by David Samson/Forum

The Rockets one loss is a 14-13 loss in overtime to Underwood. That was in Week 2. In Week 7, Underwood beat a Clinton-Graceville-Beardsley team 40-0 on the road a week after C-G-G beat Verndale 28-8.

The Rockets went to the state title game last season behind the running game of Noah Thompson. Now, the Rockets have Thompson and Dylan Kalenze with Justin Masloski. It’s a tough trio to stop.

Big problem for Underwood is they will have to go through Wheaton-Herman-Norcross to get to Verndale. Verndale and Underwood were separated by 0.2 in the QRF, but Verndale owned the tiebreaker thanks to the 14-13 overtime win.

One point separated Underwood from a No. 1 seed. Verndale doesn’t feel bad for the Rockets. One point separated the Pirates from state last year.


Frazee (7-1)

Hesston Bachmann (right) will lead Frazee at QB and the Hornets want top-ranked Hawley in the section title game. Photo by Darren Gibbins/Forum

No team in Class 2A has been closer to knocking off top-ranked Hawley than the Hornets this season. It’s hard to beat a team twice.

With Hesston and Tanner Bachmann the Hornets can run with any team. If there’s a hiccup for Hawley on the road to state it would be Frazee in the section title game.

Frazee has wanted another chance at the Nuggets since their 25-12 loss to Hawley in which the Hornets had three drives inside the Nuggets 10-yard line go for zero points.

Frazee has not won a section title since 1990.

Chris Murphy can be reached at 701-241-5548 or Follow him on Twitter @SeeMurphsTweets for Minnesota prep updates and smart alecky remarks about sports, movies, music and life in general.

The X factors for each top-seeded area football team in Minnesota

These area top seeds need these guys to perform big on the playoff stage to get to the Minnesota football state tournament.

Cody Dorow/Jade Lawrence – Moorhead (Class 5A, Section 8)

Jade Lawrence leads the run game into the playoffs for the Spuds. Photo by Jun-Kai Teoh/St. Cloud Times

Cody Dorow has made it so teams must respect the pass for Moorhead. Photo by Dave Samson/Forum

The Moorhead offense runs on these two. Dorow has 36 catches for 555 yards and seven touchdowns in seven games for the Spuds in his first year every playing football. Lawrence has 91 carries for 1,061 yards and 22 total touchdowns for Moorhead. That’s 11.66 yards per carry.


Tony Ukkelberg/Nick Trosdahl- Ottertail Central (Class 2A, Section 6)

Nick Trosdahl (44) will lead the rushing attack/defense of Ottertail Central in the playoffs. Photo by Dave Wallis/Forum

OTC has won seven straight behind Ukkelberg at QB and Trosdahl leading the Bulldogs defense that has given up 18 points in those seven games and the running game.

Ukkelberg has thrown for 843 yards and 12 touchdowns, rushed for six touchdowns and returned a punt for a touchdown. Trosdahl has rushed for 684 yards and 19 total touchdowns for OTC.


Tom Pavek – Mahnomen (Class 1A, Section 8)

Tom Pavek hasn’t been healthy all season, but he has the chance to lead Mahnomen to its third straight state title. Photo by David Samson/Forum

The quarterback hasn’t been healthy all the season, but he has Mahnomen undefeated and in line to make a run at the Indians third straight state title and the second with him at quarterback.

Pavek has played in seven games, throwing for four touchdowns and rushing for 12 TDs and 833 yards on just 67 carries, mostly coming in the first half of games. That’s 12.4 yards per carry. Mahnomen can win if Pavek gets hurt, but they dominate with him even somewhat healthy.


Ben Ellefson/Dillon Omberg – Hawley (Class 2A, Section 8)

Ben Ellefson is the go-to guy for Hawley. Photo by Mike Vosburg/Forum

Hawley starting RB Dillon Omberg (ball) left Week 7′s game with an injury and hasn’t played since. The Nuggets will need him come playoff time. Photo by Mike Vosburg/Forum

The health of Omberg will alter the role of Ellefson. Omberg has 839 yards and nine touchdowns on 90 carries and two touchdowns and 115 yards on five catches. He was injured early in Week 7 and sat out Week 8. When he’s healthy, the Nuggets offense is a machine.

Ellefson – a North Dakota State tight end commit – hasn’t had massive numbers this season. He’s rushed for three touchdowns and 48 yards on 12 carries and caught 21 passes for 393 yards and five touchdowns. Where he has been a monster is at linebacker. He has 64.5 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss and one interception.

A healthy Omberg means Ellefson isn’t totally relied on offensively, which frees him up to run wild on defense. However, Ellefson is still the go-to target come crunch time. That’s what playoff time is.


Dillon Card/Colter Ehrmantraut – Verndale (Class 9-man, Section 4)

Dillon Card (right) will lead Verndale to possible redemption over last season’s section-championship loss. Photo by David Samson/Forum

The Pirates offense, which is averaging more than 34 points a game, runs through quarterback Dillon Card and running back Colter Ehrmantraut. Card was relied on heavily last season, but Ehrmantraut was able to take the burden off Card.

The two were both on the field last season when Underwood scored a touchdown to tie the game with no time remaining in the section championship. The Rockets won it with the extra point.


Jordan Spaeth/Ryan Weber – Waubun (Class 9-man, Section 6)

This is the Waubun offense behind Jordan Spaeth (left) and Ryan Weber (right). All teams know it. No team has stopped it. Photo by Dave Wallis/Forum

Spaeth and Weber have run the read-option offense to perfection this season. Spaeth has 694 yards and nine TDs on 93 carries to go along with 280 yards passing and six touchdowns and Weber has rushed for 903 yards and 10 touchdowns on 131 carries.

They not only hold the ball for Waubun, but the key to the state tournament.


Ben Nordmark/Ryan Cihak – Detroit Lakes (Class 4A, Section 8)

DL has two senior backs that can run the ball, but it could be a freshman that takes them to the top in Ben Nordmark. Photo by Brian Basham/DL Newpapers

With a backfield of seniors Sam Champa and Forrest Schleske, freshman Ben Nordmark could really change things for the Heart O’Lakes North champion Lakers. He leads the team in rushing and has been getting more carries each game and torched Pequot Lakes for 163 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in the regular-season finale.

Cihak is the leading receiver for DL. He had a 90-yard punt return and a 29-yard TD catch in that win against Pequot Lakes. He keeps defenses from focusing completely on the DL run game.


Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton running game (Class 3A, Section 8)

D-G-F’s run game is getting going at the right time. Alex Matthews (ball) is a big part of a trio of Rebel runners. Photo by Mike Vosburg/Forum

There’s really no hiding what the Rebels do. They run the ball a lot behind Brandon Wayne, Alex Matthews and Joe Flatt.

Wayne has rushed for 716 yards and eight touchdowns on 112 carries, Matthews has 477 yards rushing, four rushing TDs and two receiving TDs without playing in the regular-season finale and Flatt has 649 yards and nine touchdowns on 97 carries. They even have a fourth option with Alex Fuchs.


Chris Murphy can be reached at 701-241-5548 or Follow him on Twitter @SeeMurphsTweets for Minnesota prep updates and smart alecky remarks about sports, movies, music and life in general.

Forum prep sports chat (Oct. 17)

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