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Nelson has been the Cougars' catalyst

Senior has been a big part of North Prairie's success

October 15, 2009
Matt Mullally

Rolette middle linebacker Blake Nelson sayd there's nothing better than running through the line and laying a big lick on an opposing running back.

The 6-2, 195-pound senior has been able to do that quite a bit this season. He's one of the reasons North Prairie's (Rolla-Rolette-Wolford-Rock Lake) defensive unit is regarded as one of the best in the state, giving up fewer than seven points on average in its first seven games.

"He's the catalyst for us other there,' said NP coach Davy Zinke. "He's really turning into a dominant defender."

Nelson is among the team leaders in tackles and enjoys the freedom that goes with his position of pursuing the ball carrier and dropping back, when necessary, into pass coverage.

"I've started for four years and three as middle linebacker,' he said. "I've comfortable in that spot."

Blake is quick to point out the play of others on the D-unit for his success. "They all like to it,' he said. "The defensive line helps out a lot in getting into the backfield."

The combination of strength and athleticism is what has enabled the Cougars to stifle opposing offenses.

Offensively, NP isn't too shabby, either. The team is averaging over 30 points and has proven to be well balanced. The play of the offensive line deserves most of the credit, which includes Nelson.

"I don't think there is a player that gets off the ball any quicker,' Zinke said.

Nelson said the goal of the O-line is to push back its counterparts. "If there is a stalemate than it's a win for the defense, so we want to drive them back,' he said.

More times than not, the Cougars are winning the battle at the line of scrimmage and that opens opportunities for both its running and passing attack.

There was a quiet confidence heading into this season for North Prairie. It returned three all-state players, including Nelson, and several more with varsity experience who played in the past two postseasons. Perhaps the only uncertainty was how the Cougars would perform in a new region with opponents it had never faced.

So far, the squad has made the adjustment, winning their first six region games and closing in on a Class A Region 2 title.

The stakes will become much higher when postseason play begins on Oct. 24.

Nelson and his teammates know that, but he says the tough schedule to end the regular season and the challenges laid down by the coaching staff has put the squad into the right mind frame to make a serious playoff run.

"Experience plays a big role (in the postseason) and we have a lot of it,' Nelson said. "We're focusing what need to do to play as well as we can."



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