Nolan Knutson represented MHS at the Fall 2023 eSports State Finals

Though most winter sports were already in full midseason form in January, Moorhead High School’s newest activity was wrapping up its fall season with one appearance in the State Finals in the Twin Cities in one event and a top 10 finish in another. Freshman Nolan Knutson and senior Jacob Glynn participated in statewide end-of-the-season tournaments representing Moorhead eSports—a team in its first season under the umbrella of the MHS Activities Office.

“We were looking forward to adding eSports for a long time,” said Moorhead High activities director Dean Haugo. “You’re talking about an up-and-coming sport across the country and across the world and it’s great to see it catch on here in Moorhead. It’s also rewarding to add a team that has the potential to include students who maybe weren’t interested in other activities and let them represent the Spuds.”

Prior to 2023-24, eSports had been part of Moorhead Community Education while operating out of the MHS Career Academy’s state-of-the-art eSports Laboratory, which boasts over 20 high-powered desktop computers. With the new school year, Moorhead eSports joined the MHS Activities roll and added head coach Zachary Drechsel.

“Being part of the MHS Activities family has a lot of advantages beyond the pride of representing the Spuds while competing against other schools around the state like Minnetonka, Eden Prairie and so on,” explained Drechsel. “Compared to other activities, eSports is still a very recent concept. Some parents may be new to the idea, so the team being sanctioned by the school helps them understand that this is a legitimate activity for students.”

There are two eSports seasons, fall and spring, per school year. Each season features different popular competitive video games for teams to participate in, including Valorant, Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, Fortnite, Club Chess, Rocket League and others. Teams participate in weekly competitions with other schools over a two-week preseason and an eight-week regular season before the playoffs begin.

Knutson reached the State Finals in Super Smash Brothers Ultimate’s one-on-one format. Wisdom, a Minnesota-based eSports company, hosted the in-person State Finals at their Mall of America studio in Bloomington. Glynn finished in sixth in the Club Chess tournament, which was held remotely.

“Nolan and Jacob did a terrific job competing for the Spuds and we’re very proud of their achievements,” added Haugo. “Zach and the eSports coaching staff deserve a lot of credit for guiding everyone on the eSports team in an unfamiliar space—along with the Community Education team for starting the program.”

In Minnesota, varsity and junior varsity eSports are administered by the Minnesota Varsity League (MNVL). The MNVL has over 80 participating schools across the state. It also partners with colleges around the region—including the University of North Dakota, St. Cloud State University and the University of Wisconsin-River Falls—for collegiate eSports recruiting. Moorhead’s team is already aiding the college careers of its players.

“Jacob, a senior on our team, was already planning on going to the University of Jamestown (N.D.) and found out they have an eSports program,” explained Drechsel. “He contacted the coaches and the program and wound up getting a scholarship to be part of their team.”

Beyond the straightforward concept of being recruited to a collegiate team, Drechsel says that eSports is preparing these students for life in college and beyond in ways they might not even notice yet.

“What people who aren’t familiar with eSports might not understand is that it involves skills you might not have considered. It’s broadcasting, it’s management, it’s sports medicine and nutrition, it’s audio/video production and more—you’re developing all of these as part of eSports.”

The Spring 2024 preseason is scheduled to begin on February 19, with the regular season opener to follow on March 4. As Moorhead eSports becomes more established, the team aims to grow its roster and its inclusivity.

“One of the cool things about eSports is that there is no ‘Boys eSports’ or ‘Girls eSports’ or any of the hangups that come along with that. It’s just Moorhead eSports. We want to be an example of how eSports is for everyone,” said Drechsel.

For more information on the MNVL and eSports in Minnesota, visit