Pelican Rapids football Coach Dave Haugen, center. Sons Aaron and Travis found themselves across the field as opponents at the Nov. 20 game, with Pelican rival Hawley.
Third son Matt Haugen was also on hand for the Nov. 20 game against Hawley. He was on the Pelican side of the football field with father Dave. While brothers Aaron and Travis were across the field, as coaches with conference rival Hawley.

Veteran Pelican Coach Dave Haugen found himself looking across the gridiron—at sons Aaron, Travis with rival Hawley Nuggets coach crew

The clash on the Pelican Rapids football field Nov. 20 was a family face-off. 

On the “home” side of the gridiron, Coach Dave Haugen wrapped up another season—with a win. He’s been coaching in Pelican since 1988. The pandemic-plagued 2020 football season will be memorable for many reasons. 

For many families and athletes, the COVID-shortened will be remembered, in part, for its lack of memories. 

The schedule was revised and shortened. Ultimately, the season ended before the Section finals—as Minnesota’s governor ordered a one month pause in high school sports. 

For the Haugens, Coach Dave squared off against rival Hawley—with two of his sons on the opposite sidelines, in the Hawley Nugget domain. Sons Aaron and Travis both teach and coach with the Hawley school district. 

“Never would we have guessed ten years ago that we’d be across the field from our dad, and Pelican Rapids…Plus we’re a conference rival,” said Travis, who graduated from Pelican in 2014, graduated from Minnesota State-Moorhead in 2008 and joined the Hawley District about a year ago. 

Both played football for thier father, as Vikings. 

As the teams warmed in the chilly night air Nov. 20, oldest brother Aaron offered this assessment of his father’s coaching. 

“(Opponents) always knew Pelican would be well-coached. Always sharp and responsible on the field,” said Aaron. “Whether he had a ton of talent or just a little, the team was always sharp.” 

Most opponents were aware that, any game against Haugen’s Pelican Vikings, could very likely “go to the final whistle,” said the “Hawley Haugens.”

One thing’s for certain, added Aaron, if you were an opposing coach, “you never wanted to play him (Haugen) twice.” 

Aaron graduated from Valley City State University, where father Dave graduated. He’s been in the Hawley district for eight years. 

Meanwhile, on the correct and proper side of the field was middle son Matt, who graduated form Pelican in 2009. He went on to medical school, and recently joined Sanford and Perham Health as a family doctor. 

So, with Coach Dave and son Matt on the Pelican sidelines; and sons Aaron and Travis on the Hawley side, the stage was set for the final game of the 2020 season.

Absent, due to geography, was daughter Kristin Nersten, a 2011 graduate of Pelican and NDSU graduate—who is married and living in the sunshine, in Sarasota. Florida. 

Having all three sons on the sidelines, on a Friday night, was appropriate for the football players—as Dave is nearing retirement. 

For the record, the “good guys” won, with Pelican outscoring Hawley 40-14. 

Math teacher Haugen, came to Pelican from tiny McVille, North Dakota, where he graduated with a class of fewer than 20. He has been with the faculty, coaching youth, and part of the Pelican community since 1987. He helped found the local chapter of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes. 

Among his many accomplishments, Haugen led his squad to a state championship—in his first full season as head coach, 1997. He was a Pelican assistant coach from 1988 to 1995.

With the 2020 season now concluded, Haugen has a record of 119-113 as Pelican head coach. 

Among the fellow coach-teacher colleagues reflecting back on Haugen’s career was Doug Bruggeman. Haugen coached both of Bruggeman’s sons—and Bruggeman was among the coaches for Haugen’s sons.

“Integrity is the word that comes to my mind when I think of Dave. He has been a solid and steadfast leader from the day I set foot here 29 years ago,” stated Bruggeman. “The impact he has had on his players goes further than the x’s and o’s and the wins and losses. He goes about his work and lives his life in a way that young men can look to as a great example of how they should also live their lives.”