FIELD TWP- North Woods fans had reason to feel confident at halftime of Thursday’s home tilt against Deer River. The Grizzlies had a comfortable 36-14 lead, and there were few signs at that …
FIELD TWP- North Woods fans had reason to feel confident at halftime of Thursday’s home tilt against Deer River. The Grizzlies had a comfortable 36-14 lead, and there were few signs at that point that the Warriors would mount much of a challenge.
That changed dramatically in the third quarter, as the Warriors scored two touchdowns and were on the move for a third that could have given them the lead. But from the first play of the final stanza, the Grizzles owned the fourth quarter and won 48-36.
Big plays were the order of the day in the first half, with Jared Chiabotti getting the Grizzlies rolling with a 45-yard scoring dash just five minutes into the game.
After the Warriors chewed up the rest of the quarter with a long scoring drive to knot the score at 6-6, it took just two plays for the Grizzlies to retake the lead on a 46-yard touchdown run by T.J. Chiabotti.
Deer River mishandled the ensuing bouncing kickoff, and North Woods was in business again at the Warriors 42. T.J. Chiabotti ripped off a 33-yard run to the seven-yard-line, and scored two plays later. Jared Chiabotti scored the two-point conversion to put the Grizzlies up 20-6.
Less than 90 seconds later Deer River struck back with a 49-yard scoring pass from Blake Fox to Ty Morrison, and with the conversion the Warriors trailed 20-14.
But before the Warriors could catch their breath, the Grizzlies struck back. Starting on their own 39 after the kickoff, T.J. Chiabotti cut through the left side of the line and streaked down the sideline. Two defenders tried to trip him up at the Deer River 15, but Chiabotti kept his balance and rumbled into the end zone, a 61-yard score that came just 14 seconds after the Warriors had closed the gap. A Ty Fabish-to-Zach Cheney PAT pass made the score 28-12.
North Woods appeared to have stalled on its next possession, facing a third-and-10 from its own 46, but Jared Chiabotti broke to the outside and raced for yet another long-distance score, this one a 54-yarder. Fabish and Cheney connected again for the PAT, and the Grizzlies appeared to be breezing toward an easy victory as they headed into halftime leading 36-14.
But Deer River manhandled North Woods in the third quarter. The Grizzlies went nowhere on their first possession, setting the Warriors up at the North Woods 44 after a short punt. Seven plays later, they scored to cut the lead to 36-22.
A jarring tackle on the Grizzlies’ next possession forced a fumble that the Warriors recovered on the North Woods 22. It took six plays for the Warriors to score, and with the successful two-point conversion they were back in the game, 36-30, with three minutes remaining in the quarter.
The Warriors recovered another North Woods fumble on the next series and were confidently on the move from their own 35-yard line to the North Woods 28, facing fourth-and-one as the quarter ended.
The Grizzlies had stopped the Warriors on fourth down on the game’s opening drive, and at a critical time they did it again. Carter Holman slipped his blocker and slammed into charging Warriors back Tygh Gullickson, wrestling him down a foot short of a first down.
“We had to weather the storm, and we did a good job of that,” Head Coach Joel Anderson said. “We went back over our assignments and we told them they had to be aggressive there. Carter’s a very fast kid, a very strong kid. He gives people fits on that defensive line there because he’s hard for those bigger linemen to get out of their stance and pick up right away.”
The play crushed Deer Lake’s momentum, and North Woods methodically and relentlessly pushed the other way, running 14 plays to reach the Deer River seven-yard-line. A false start penalty on the next snap set the Grizzlies back to the 12, but then Fabish, who was 3-9 passing on the game, connected with Olin Nelson at the 7. Nelson was hit at the 4 but pushed forward and stretched the ball across the goal line just before he hit the ground.
“We put together a very good drive there,” Anderson said. “The line did a fantastic job of opening up holes. Olin is a great athlete, a big, strong kid. Ty put the ball where it needed to be.”
The score put North Woods up 42-30, and the drive left little time for the Warriors to respond.
With Deer River dumping its run game and relying on the pass, North Woods defensive back Erik Aune made them pay, intercepting a pass at the Deer River 48 and running it back to the Warriors 33. After Jake Panichi bulled his way for 11 yards and a Grizzlies first down at the 15, T.J. Chiabotti hurdled a would-be tackler at the 6 and scored the team’s final touchdown on the next play to put the game out of reach.
T.J. Chiabotti toted the ball 23 times for 263 yards and four touchdowns. Jared Chiabotti ran the ball six times, rolling up 103 yards and two touchdowns.
Defensively, linebacker Jake Panichi led the team with 13 tackles. Anderson said that was reflective of the scheme they try to play, with the line clearing away interference to give linebackers clear shots at the running backs.
“Jake is in that position for a reason,” he said. “He’s proven he can wrap up and bring people down.”
Anderson said his team showed good progress in its second game and expects the trend to continue.
“I think we’re only going to get better in terms of being able to execute,” he said. “We cleaned up a lot of stuff from game one to game two, cleaned up our protection quite a bit, added pieces to the offense that we were missing the game one, and it showed. Hopefully we can continue the rest of the season.”
The Grizzlies were scheduled to host Barnum on Friday in a game rescheduled to start at 4 p.m., followed by an Oct. 30 road game at Chisholm.