FIELD TWP- The North Woods backfield ran wild in their nineman football season debut against Lake of the Woods here on Thursday, Aug. 31, rushing for over 400 yards and five first-half touchdowns in …
FIELD TWP- The North Woods backfield ran wild in their nineman football season debut against Lake of the Woods here on Thursday, Aug. 31, rushing for over 400 yards and five first-half touchdowns in a 46-12 rout of the Bears.
The Grizzlies put this one away early with an explosive second quarter. They came into the period leading 8-0 on the strength of a ten-yard touchdown run by junior quarterback Trajen Barto and a two-point conversion by junior running back Nick Abramson. The second quarter looked ominous to start. North Woods turned the ball over on an interception and gave up a 15-yard scoring pass from the Bears’ Jayce Lucek to Cole Cook to make the score 8-6. But that’s when the Grizzlies came to life. Taking over after the kickoff at their own 48, it took only two carries by junior running back Kaden Gornick for the Grizzlies to score, the second a 35-yard touchdown dash that put North Woods up 14-6.
After stopping the Bears on downs at their own 45, lightning struck again on the next play with Gornick breaking through the middle of the line and going the distance for another touchdown at the 7:33 mark of the quarter. Abramson ran in the conversion for a 22-6 lead.
After Barto snuffed out the next Lake of the Woods drive at the 50 with an interception, it was his turn for a big play. Taking the ball at the 35, Barto started right and then cut back across the grain to the left sideline and took it to the house. Abramson’s conversion put North Woods up 30-6 with 3:56 left in the half.
The Grizzlies snuffed out the next Lake of the Woods drive at the Bears 44, taking over on offense with 2:33 remaining. A 24-yard pass from Barto to freshman receiver James Yernatich set the Grizzlies up at the Lake of the Woods 15, and two plays later Abramson bulled his way for 12 yards and another touchdown. Barto passed to freshman receiver Carson Johnson for the conversion, giving the Grizzlies a 38-6 lead at the half.
They weren’t finished. The Grizzlies drove from their own 20 to the Bears’ eight yard line on their opening possession of the third quarter, but Barto came up short on a fourth-and-six play to hand the ball over to Lake of the Woods. The Bears quarterback fumbled the ensuing snap and Gornick recovered in the end zone to lift the Grizzlies to a 44-6 lead. Barto connected with Yernatich on the conversion for a 46-6 lead.
The Grizzlies defense kept the Bears at bay in the second half on a pair of Barto interceptions and one by freshman defensive end Caleb Rutchasky. With the clock running in the fourth quarter, the Bears tacked on a touchdown with 3:14 left in the game when receiver Kenneth Merkle took a pass in the flat from Braden Johnson at the Bears 15 and scampered down the left sideline 85 yards for the score to account for the 46-12 final score.
Gornick was the game’s top ground-gainer, picking up 194 yards on 16 carries, an average of 12.1 yards per tote, with two rushing touchdowns and a third on the fumble recovery. Abramson also eclipsed the century mark, picking up 147 yards on 24 carries with a touchdown and three conversions. Barto gained 84 yards on eight carries with two touchdowns. Barto was 4-for-9 passing for 32 yards and two conversions.
Barto proved a drive-killer on defense, hauling in four interceptions and making seven tackles, six unassisted. Abramson led the Grizzlies in tackles with eight, six unassisted.
Head coach Joel Anderson praised the Grizzlies’ effort.
“It was a grind both physically and mentally for them,” Anderson said. “I couldn’t be happier for them to start the year than with a game like this, especially for a young team. I have nothing but positives to say about the guys today.”
Anderson gave a good deal of the credit for the team’s success on the ground to the team’s sole senior, offensive lineman Noah Westman.
“Noah was blowing holes open all night long,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the Grizzlies made some adjustments in the second quarter that the Bears didn’t pick up on, leading to the scoring outburst.
“They started bringing a lot of guys up and putting on a lot of pressure,” Anderson said. “I switched sets and they didn’t adjust to it very well. We were able to hit the holes and break some big ones there. That was huge for us.”
Anderson also had positive words for the defense.
“I thought our cover guys were fantastic,” he said. “They were in the right spots, they made the right reads. Our guys came out and recognized things and they were in the right spots at the snap, and that was a big difference. We adjusted well to what they were doing. We communicated well all night long on the line and in the secondary. It was a very good game.”
The Grizzlies were scheduled for their first road test of the season on Friday against Kelliher-Northome in Kelliher. The Mustangs registered a 62-18 beat down of Cass Lake-Bena in their season opener.
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