FIELD TWP- “A play here, a play here, and the outcome would have been totally different.”It’s a sports cliché that the North Woods football team learned has an underlying …
FIELD TWP- “A play here, a play here, and the outcome would have been totally different.”
It’s a sports cliché that the North Woods football team learned has an underlying truth, as three Grizzlies miscues led to a season-opening loss on the road at Braham, 22-16, on Friday.
Backed up deep in their own territory on their second possession of the game, the Grizzlies coughed up the football at their own five-yard line and a Bombers player scooped it up and ran in for a touchdown. Having already scored on a 61-yard drive to open the game, the gift put Braham up 14-0 after a failed 2-point conversion with just over a minute left in the first quarter.
Visions of the 52-8 trouncing the Bombers laid on the Grizzlies last year surfaced when North Woods fumbled the ensuing kickoff and Braham recovered on the Grizzlies' 37. But North Woods sophomore defensive back Olin Nelson came up with a big interception to snuff the drive and set fire to the Grizzlies.
Starting from their own 15, a steady dose of T.J. Chiabotti runs took the Grizzlies to the Bombers' 14, where Chiabotti broke through the left side for a touchdown. Ty Fabish flipped a pass to Zac Cheney for the 2-point conversion, and North Woods was back in it, 14-8.
After the kickoff, the defense clamped down with a three-and-out series for the Bombers, and after the punt the Grizzlies went to work from the Braham 43. Mixing up runs and passes, Chiabotti capped the drive with a 7-yard scoring plunge, and with another Fabish-to-Cheney conversion, North Woods was suddenly on top 16-14. They held that lead at the half.
The Grizzlies received the second-half kickoff and started from their own 31, but fumbled again on a third-and-15 play, setting the Bombers up at the North Woods 11. It took just two plays for Braham to retake the lead, adding the 2-point conversion for a 22-16 advantage.
Two possessions later, starting at midfield, Chiabotti was swarmed on a first-down run, but broke out of the pack and dashed 43 yards to the Braham 7. After three unproductive plays, the Grizzlies faced a fourth-and-goal at the eight-yard line. Chiabotti got the call, taking a flip pass in the backfield and bulling his way into the end zone for an apparent touchdown.
But a yellow flag signaled the third big miscue of the game, a holding penalty that nullified the touchdown and took the points off of the board. When the subsequent play came up a yard shy of the end zone, the Grizzlies had failed to capitalize on their last serious scoring opportunity.
“We made a couple of mental mistakes down there by the goal line,” Head Coach Joel Anderson said. “We didn’t get it in the end zone and then the very next play from them from scrimmage we gave up a a big run, probably the biggest of the evening against our defense, and that seemed to deplete us a little bit.”
Anderson said that they expected mistakes in the first game, given that they entered it with less practice time than in a normal season and no pre-season scrimmage to tighten things up. But the first-year head coach had plenty of positives to focus on from the contest.
“Offensively, we came out and did what we needed to do, short of putting the ball in the end zone that one last time,” Anderson said. “We knew we were at a size disadvantage, so we tried to get them where they were starting to get winded, and we did that. We played the game plan out very, very well in our defensive schemes. Offensively, we did exactly what we wanted to. If we didn’t have a couple of mental mistakes here or there, if we didn’t have a couple of turnovers, I think we might be having a different conversation about the outcome. But overall, I was very pleased with the game.”
Chiabotti had a big game, rolling up 168 yards on 24 carries while scoring two touchdowns. The Grizzlies were 7-for-13 in the passing game for 69 yards.
The Grizzlies were scheduled to host Deer River for their first home contest on Thursday afternoon. They'll host Barnum on Friday, Oct. 23.