The foundation of the Valley Plains Football Conference shook a bit as two of its powerhouses collided Friday with Mahnomen visiting Class 2A's No. 2 ranked Hawley.
With each squad carrying undefeated conference records into the tilt, it was sure to be a close game, with several factors weighing in on the outcome.
One large factor came in the form of Mahnomen senior quarterback Kyle Larson, who would make his mark in Mahnomen's 21-13 upset victory over the Nuggets by rushing for 162 yards on 31 carries.
Larson would find the end zone with 9:16 remaining in regulation, putting the Indians up 21-13. The Mahnomen QB wasn't at full throttle for the game after not practicing all week after nursing injuries after last week's victory over Red Lake Falls.
But that didn't deter Larson from having his best game of the season.
He initiated a key play during Mahnomen's first possession after Hawley closed to within one point at 14-13.
Larson didn't only find openings on the Hawley defense, he found them on special teams too.
Faced with a fourth and 11 and a punting situation, the rushing-QB Larson turned into the rushing-punter Larson, scrambling for 19 yards and a first down.
"It looked like the opening was there, so I went for it," Larson commented on the successful fake punt.
Added Mahnomen head coach John Clark Jr., "He has the okay to call that play when he sees the opening, but he also knows he better make it work."
Two plays later, Larson added the insurance TD.
The Indians would set the tone early on the mighty Nuggets, running 19 offensive plays to Hawley's four in the first quarter, then boasting a 16-8 play advantage in the second quarter which turned into a 14-0 halftime lead.
The first score came on a Ty Beckius one-yard run, while Tyson McArthur caught a 19-yard pass from Larson to put Mahnomen up 14-0, along with a pair of Anthony Lavoy PAT kicks.
Hawley squandered a golden opportunity to tie the score late in the game, but a lost fumble on the Mahnomen 14 with 4:30 to go ended that hope.
"A win like this means that everyone who played from top to bottom played well," Clark said. "The story of a good football team is that when they need a play , they make it. Or goal is to keep getting better and better and we are going to need that next week."
Hawley Peder Naatz added the Nuggets regained some momentum in the second half, where they came within on blocked PAT kick from tying the contest.
"We are proud of the way our team responded (in the second half)," Naatz said. "Mahnomen did a great job of preparing and in the end, the better team won."
Nick Paur led Hawley with 100 yards of rushing on 19 carries, including a 19-yard TD in the third quarter. Jake Grefsrud notched Hawley's first end zone stomp, scoring on a long 44-yard rush to pull Hawley to within 14-7.
Mahnomen's chances of spoiling another undefeated team will come again next week, when the Indians face the 6-0 and conference-leading Fertile-Beltrami Friday.
The game could give the Indians a heavy chance of sealing a Valley Plains title with a win.