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BITTER BOWL

North Woods falls to Nevis in brutal weather in first round of the Nineman state tournament

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 11/15/17

BEMIDJI— The Grizzlies faced a bitter wind in more ways than one during their opening round state tournament match-up with Section 6 Nineman champions Nevis here last Friday evening.

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BITTER BOWL

North Woods falls to Nevis in brutal weather in first round of the Nineman state tournament

Posted

BEMIDJI— The Grizzlies faced a bitter wind in more ways than one during their opening round state tournament match-up with Section 6 Nineman champions Nevis here last Friday evening.

With temperatures in the mid-teens, and with a 20-mile per hour wind blowing off Lake Bemidji, the conditions were downright brutal. “I don’t think words could describe it if you didn’t experience it,” said North Woods Head Coach John Jirik. “The windchill was about zero and everybody out there was pretty much in misery.”

And for North Woods, the misery never let up as the Tigers’ relentless ground game proved nearly unstoppable. “They were able to run their offense like we thought they would,” said Jirik, who expected a high-scoring game. “The way they stopped us was a bit more of a surprise.”

At 9-1 coming into the game, the Grizzlies had been able to rely all season long on a well-rounded offense, led by senior runningback Brendan Parson, senior fullback Garrett Abramson, and senior quarterback Tate Olson, whose passing ability— along with the sure hands of junior wide receiver Tanner Barto— had provided North Woods with the ability to score early and often. Since losing their season opener to Cromwell, the Grizzlies had averaged 486 yards and 44 points a game before their state tournament showdown.

But it was Nevis, at 8-2, that seemed the more powerful team. “They’re very good,” said Jirik after the game. While weather conditions weren’t conducive to the Grizzlies’ passing attack, Jirik said Nevis likely would have won even under perfect conditions. “I think they were the better team,” he said.

Nevis went to work from the opening kickoff, as they halted the Grizzlies’ first attempted drive and took the lead for good as they quickly converted their first two possessions for six points apiece.

North Woods seemed to rebound in their next possession, as nice runs by Parson and Abramson kept the Grizzlies moving forward. Abramson later scored on a three-yard plunge up the middle, to put North Woods on the board. When Olson connected with Barto for the conversion, the Grizzlies were briefly back in the game, down just 12-8.

But Nevis proved relentless as their outside running game kept racking up yardage almost at will. The Tigers, averaging eight yards a carry, racked up an astonishing 246-yards rushing in the first half alone. They would add two more touchdowns in the second quarter to take a comfortable 26-8 lead into the break.

In the second half, Nevis took the opening kickoff down the field for six more points, and this time added the extra points to take a 34-8 lead. North Woods stalled quickly on their next drive and when Nevis blocked their attempted punt, they found themselves on the North Woods 31-yard line. The Tigers quickly capitalized on the turnover for eight more points, putting the game out of reach for good. By then, both teams were rotating in their second string to give all the players some time on the field.

The Grizzlies would add one more touchdown in the fourth quarter, but it made little difference as North Woods’ season came to an end with a final score of 42-14.

“It was not the weather for our high-flying defense,” said Jirik after the game, although he said the weather really wasn’t the deciding factor. “They played their game very well,” he said.

With the season over, Jirik was already contemplating the Grizzlies’ prospects for next season. This year’s senior-dominated team will, by necessity, need an entirely new look in 2018. “We’ll be a completely different team,” said Jirik. “We will have to find a way to develop a new identity.” Still, North Woods has a sizable crop of juniors who showed promise this year and will have the room to step into the starting slots next year. “At this point, it’s tough to say,” said Jirik. “We’ll see how the kids develop.”

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