Fargo North football looking to build upon EDC championship, state semifinal berth from a season ago
The Spartans return a good amount of starters including all-state and all-Eastern Dakota Conference running back/linebacker Peder Haugo
FARGO — The Fargo North High School varsity football team was just one win away from its first Dakota Bowl appearance in 21 years last season before falling to eventual 11A state champion Jamestown in the state playoff semifinals.
The Spartans — who went 7-4 last season and won the Eastern Dakota Conference A division crown — are looking to build off of their first winning season since 2008 and believe they have the returning talent capable of doing so.
“We say that it’s recognizable to us that we are the EDC champs,” said North head coach Adam Roland. “But we’re taking the approach that we’ll recognize that, but we’re a new team and we have new obstacles to overcome. We have to find our identity as the 2022 football team and the guys know that.
“So we want to obviously build off of that, we want to make sure that that’s something that we hang our hat on, but we have a lot to prove this year.”
North, which is ranked No. 2 in the North Dakota Associated Press Sportscasters and Sportswriters Association 11A preseason poll, lost five all-state players to graduation in the offseason, but return seven starters including all-state and all-EDC junior Peder Haugo.
“We return a lot of guys who’ve got a lot of experience on D and O,” Roland — 2021 11A and EDC Coach of the Year — said. “But in high school football, you always have the flip side where you always have to replace seniors.
“Guys are stepping up. If you look at our backfield, we return Jim Miller and Peder Haugo. We’ll have a new quarterback in Ethan Welk, but he’s got experience. He started on the defensive side of the ball for us last year.
Haugo was an offensive powerhouse in the Spartans’ backfield last season, rushing for 535 yards and five touchdowns, only trailing now-graduated all-state and all-EDC player Mason Lockwood who led North with 13 rush TDs.
Miller, a junior, added four rushing TDs a season ago while both him and Haugo also contributed defensively, combining for 34 total tackles, 1 1/2 sacks and four pass break-ups.
Welk was more prominent on the defensive side of the ball last season with 41 1/2 tackles and nine pass breakups. He’ll look to have a smooth transition to his new role under center in his junior season.
“It’s just exciting,” Welk said. “I’m excited to help be a leader with the guys and help us win games and do everything we can to play in November.”
Haugo and Miller will also see some playing time on the defensive side again along with other returners.
“Defensively, we return Sam Fritel, Gus Maughan, Jim Miller, Peder Haugo, Carson Hannestad and Adam Jarski,” Roland said. “Those guys all started last year for us on defense. And then like I said, we roll a lot of guys in, so we have some experience coming back.”
Maughan, a linebacker, returns as a junior and is the top defensive returner statistically. He was second on the team in total tackles with 45 and recorded two sacks.
Jarski will serve as the senior defensive leader for the Spartans, recording 16 1/2 total tackles last season along with two sacks.
“It feels good,” Jarski said. “I’m used to it, I’ve been doing it for a few years but it feels good to step up and be a leader this year.”
Roland, Welk and Jarski all said practice has gone well to start off as North approaches its first game against West Fargo Horace this Friday.
“It’s always good to get into the first week-and-a-half of what we still call two-a-days,” Roland said. “It’s just a really good feeling. The guys look good. They’re really working hard, they’re really getting after it and they have a focus about them, but they’re having fun playing football.”
“It’s been great,” Welk added. “Guys are flying around and the energy is high and everyone is having a good time so it’s been well.”
Jarski and his teammates won’t have to wait much longer. The team has been focused on its opening game against the newcomer Hawks for some time.
“The biggest thing is there’s no film on them, but at the end of the day we just have to play our football game,” Jarski said. “Our coaches are going to call it and as players we just have to perform.”
“We played them my freshman year and they’re a good, solid team,” Welk added. “They’ll have juniors and sophomores so they’ll be a good team, we just need to watch the film if we have any from that year and just trust our coaches. They know what they’re doing.”
After the home tilt with Horace, the Spartans will pay a visit to Grand Forks Central before an open date in week three. After that opening stretch, North rounds out its schedule with home games against Wahpeton, Grand Forks Red River and Devils lake and road contests at Bismarck St. Mary’s, Fargo South, West Fargo and Jamestown.
The Spartans’ last state championship came in 2000 when they beat Bismarck 43-22.
“I talked to the guys about that,” Roland said. “We have goals that every single team has and that’s obviously to win a conference championship, make the playoffs, win your playoff games, make it to the state championship and win a state championship. But none of that occurs if you don’t have your daily goals of coming out to practice with enthusiasm, coming out to practice to get better each day, to work on the individual skills and then the team scheme to make sure that you’re just simply sound in what you do."
Fargo North hosts Horace this Friday with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. at North High School.