'It's great fun': Spartans, Spuds, Haugos set for football-filled family weekend
Fargo North running back Peder Haugo and the Spartans are playing for a state title while Moorhead wide receiver Michael Haugo and the Spuds are playing in the state semifinals in a big football weekend for the first cousins.
MOORHEAD — Moorhead High School athletic director Dean Haugo is in the midst of a busy week that started in North Carolina where he watched a former Spuds basketball player compete against the No. 1 team in Division I men's basketball.
His week is going to end with a heavy dose of family and football.
“It’s great fun," Haugo said.
Peder Haugo — Dean's nephew — is a standout running back for Fargo North, which is playing for the North Dakota Class 11A state championship at 3 p.m. Friday against Jamestown at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
Michael Haugo — Dean's son — and the Spuds play at 1 p.m. Saturday in the Minnesota Class 5A state quarterfinals against Elk River in Maple Grove.
“It’s really exciting for the boys," Dean said. “They play in schools that care about what goes on and they have great teammates and I think they’re both thrilled to do what they can to help their teams. ... We feel really fortunate that they’re both in this position and having good seasons with their teams.”
Peder has rushed for 1,292 yards and a school-record 23 touchdowns on 185 attempts to help lead the Spartans to their first state championship game in more than two decades. Michael has 51 catches for 723 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Spuds, who won a section title after losing their final four games in the regular season.
“It’s going to be stressful, but fun," said Gary Haugo, Peder's dad and Michael's uncle. "We’re really looking forward to the experience for each of the kids. The family has always had a real love affair for football.”
Dean and Gary — the Vice President for University Advancement at Minnesota State Moorhead — both played football for the Concordia Cobbers in the 1990s.
Their sons are both three-sport athletes. Peder is a 6-foot-1, 200-pound junior who also plays linebacker for North and plays basketball and competes in track and field. Michael is 6-foot-4, 190-pound receiver for the Spuds and also plays basketball and competes in track and field.
“I’ve always wanted to be a little better than him," Peder said of a friendly competition with his cousin. "I don’t know if he feels the same way."
Both have played vital roles in their teams' success this fall. Spuds head coach Kevin Feeney said Michael has elevated his play late in the season and into the playoffs.
“If you were to pick the dimensions of a wide receiver, he hits all the standards and hits all the benchmarks," Feeney said. "He’s a big, strong, fast kid. He has taken his game to a whole new level in the last month.”
Peder has been an essential two-way player for the Spartans in their playoff run to the Dakota Bowl. He also ranks fourth on the team with 38.5 total tackles.
“I think his numbers kind of speak for themselves," said North head coach Adam Roland. "The spark that he can bring, anytime he has the football, he can break one. ... He’s made some pretty amazing runs this year.”
While playing just across the Red River from each other, Michael said their athletic paths haven't crossed too often outside of family gatherings.
“We were trying to get him to come over to Moorhead,” Michael said with a laugh.
“We’ve always kind of joked about me coming over to Moorhead and playing running back and linebacker over there and just seeing what the two Haugo boys can do on the field," Peder said. "We’d have to share the ball, which I don’t think would go very well. It would be fun.”
Dean plans to be at Peder's game Friday and his youngest daughter, Kate, an eighth-grader, has a basketball game later than afternoon. Then it's on the road to Maple Grove for Michael's game in the state quarterfinals.
To start his week, Dean watched Moorhead graduate Maleeck Harden-Hayes — who also played at North Dakota State — play for UNC-Wilmington at top-ranked North Carolina on Monday night in Chapel Hill.
Michael said he plans to watch Peder's game on television and Gary and Peder plan to travel to Maple Grove for Michael's game. To add another family layer to the weekend, Ahna Haugo — Peder's younger sister — is a team manager for the Spartans football team.
The Haugos football excellence extends beyond the Red River Valley. Luke Haugo — Michael's and Peder's second cousin — is a sophomore at North High School in Phoenix and a highly regarded quarterback prospect.
Luke — who is 6-foot-5, 200 pounds — has received Power Five offers from Oregon, Arizona and Arizona State. Michael has signed to compete in track and field at NDSU. Peder is garnering interest from Division I and Division II football programs.
“Family reunions can be pretty cool," Gary said.