WESTHOPE - The Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn football team is reclassifying into the 9-man division next year, but the Sioux are handling the Class A playoffs just fine this season.
W-N-G junior quarterback Hunter Braaten rushed for 122 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Sioux past Milnor-North Sargent, 20-14, and into the state semifinals for the first time in team history.
"We let Braaten loose a couple of times," M-NS coach Eric Olson said. "That kid's a heck of a ballplayer. He's slithery; he just made some plays."
Westhope-Newburg-Glenburn quarterback Hunter Braaten looks to pass while being pursued by Milnor-North Sargent’s Wyatt Mund, left, and Zachary Drevlow (69) during their Class A playoff game Saturday in Westhope.
Braaten scored on a 25-yard run on the fifth play from scrimmage.
But the next drive - and much of the first half - was dominated by Bulldogs junior running back Andrew Martinson.
Martinson rushed six times on M-NS's ensuing possession and capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown plunge. The 5-foot-11, 160-pound back carried the ball 24 times for 162 yards, including 13 times for 117 yards before halftime.
"He's our go-to guy running the ball," Olson said. "The kid runs hard every single down, whether he has the ball or doesn't. When he's in practice or drills, he goes hard every single time. He's gonna be an important piece next year for us coming back, so I'm proud of how he ran."
The Bulldogs (6-4) led 14-6 at halftime but didn't score again.
Braaten kept a drive alive late in the third quarter with a 16-yard pass over the middle to Chase Conway, and scored with one minute, 15 seconds remaining in the quarter.
The Sioux (7-4) converted the two-point conversion to tie the game.
After the W-N-G defense forced a three-and-out aided by a Bulldogs penalty, the Sioux took over on M-NS's 36-yard line.
Three plays later, Braaten scored again on a 7-yard run.
"We expect that out of him," W-N-G coach Tom Nesvold said of his quarterback, who also completed 8-of-21 passes for 108 yards. "He hits the holes and finds the creases. The difference between now and the beginning of the season is our o-line has started to finish blocks."
The Sioux defense held strong as the Bulldogs put together two drives in the fourth quarter. On a fourth-and-2 early in the quarter, W-N-G defenders swarmed Martinson in the backfield to force a turnover on downs.
On the Bulldogs' final drive, W-N-G senior Logan Hermes batted down a fourth-down pass to allow his team to run out the clock.
The Sioux have a rematch with Langdon-Munich in a playoff semifinal at 1:30 p.m. Saturday in Langdon. L-M beat W-N-G on Oct. 5.
"We had it tied at 36 in the snow, and they made a play and we didn't," Nesvold said. "There should be some fireworks, anyway."