Sure-handed rancher

Bishop Ryan receiver Nick Berentson trained with his teammates during early-morning summer workouts – lifting, conditioning and running routes.

Then the soft-spoken senior hurried back to his family’s cattle farm in Maxbass to ranch with his father, Eddie Berentson, until after sundown. He’s been pitching in ever since he can remember.

“It makes it a lot harder to try to make it to everything,” said Nick Berentson, a fourth-generation rancher. “I have to try to choose between football and the farm. Football comes first.”

Ranch life

Berentson, with his blue eyes, shaggy blond hair and quiet demeanor, likes the freedom and tranquility of the wide-open countryside.

“You don’t have a lot of crowdedness like in Minot,” he said.

Living on a farm outside city limits has its consequences, too. Like grueling work.

Though normally football comes first – Berentson gets a free pass from ranch work during the season – there are times in the summer the cattle take priority. Ryan coach Brad Borkhuis said Berentson’s teammates don’t give him a hard time about missing lifting sessions.

“If anything they understand and respect it,” Borkhuis said, “because when he’s not lifting and he has the excuse of going to move cattle, they know what’s in that.”

Farms tend to produce tough, industrious young men, and good teammates, too. Many ranching lessons apply to the gridiron, Berentson said.

“When we’re moving the cattle we have to use teamwork and communicate, just like in football,” he said. “If we don’t use teamwork, the cow gets away or we miss ’em. In football, if we don’t make our block, the play won’t turn out.”

So far, Berentson has done his part on the field. The Lions boast a 2-0 record and the top ranking in Class AA.

‘Farm boy tough’

In Ryan’s 34-24 win against Kindred last week, Berentson snatched a pass across the middle, cradled the ball and absorbed a vicious blow from a Vikings defender. He hopped right up and returned to the line of scrimmage.

Two plays later, he pulled in another ball, displaying no signs of pain from his previous reception.

“Growing up on the farm made me farm boy tough,” Berentson said with a grin.

Ryan senior quarterback Austin Eggl said Berentson is the type of receiver every gunslinger longs for – dependable and sure-handed. The type you want to throw to in a pressure situation.

Against Kindred, Berentson hauled in eight catches for 189 yards, including a 55-yard touchdown. Multiple times he broke tackles en route to big gains.

“You look at some of the runs (after the catch) where he was just aggressively running over people,” Borkhuis said. “He was running around, over and through people.”

The epitome of “farm boy tough.”

First-rate receiver

With 11 catches for 221 yards in five quarters this year (Ryan’s opener against Velva barely lasted one quarter due to lightning), Berentson is already just 12 yards shy of his receiving output in 2012.

Whether it’s the offseason ranching or the offseason route-running, he’s made great strides since his all-conference campaign last season.

“I’ve just seen a lot more confidence and maturity this year out of him,” Eggl said. “He knows he can go out and get it done and get himself open and make the catch.”

Borkhuis said Berentson is nearing the upper echelon of Class AA wideouts.

“He’s not overly tall, but he has extremely good body control,” Borkhuis said. “To that degree he’s probably one of the best that’s out there.”

Ryan Holmgren covers high school sports and general assignments. Follow him on Twitter @ryanholmgren.