FIELD TWP – Last year, Ely beat North Woods to win the Section 7 Nineman football title. This year, North Woods turned the tables, eliminating the Timberwolves in semi-final round action on …
FIELD TWP – Last year, Ely beat North Woods to win the Section 7 Nineman football title. This year, North Woods turned the tables, eliminating the Timberwolves in semi-final round action on Saturday.
The Grizzlies will now face Cook County for the section title this Friday, in Esko. Game time is set for 4:45 p.m.
As it has all season, a balanced offensive attack proved the key to victory for North Woods as they beat Ely 42-18 under cold and cloudy conditions. The score suggested a blowout, but the game was close throughout the first three quarters. But yet another big fourth quarter, during which North Woods scored 16 unanswered points, allowed the Grizzlies to ice the deal.
“We played a very solid game,”said Wolves Head Coach Brian Lamppa, “but they’re a very powerful team.”
Ely was left in catch-up mode from the start, as North Woods took the opening kickoff for a touchdown in just four plays, led by a 47-yard scamper by senior runningback Brendan Parson.
North Woods looked poised to pad their lead on their next drive, after senior quarterback Tate Olson connected with Tanner Barto on a 50-plus-yard pass leaving North Woods with a first and goal on Ely’s four-yard line. But a penalty followed by a fumble gave the ball back to Ely. When the Wolves were forced to punt a few plays later, North Woods was back knocking on the door again, but this time they gave it back on downs at Ely’s 10-yard line.
In the second quarter, a promising Ely drive and an apparent touchdown pass from quarterback Carter Gaulke came back on a holding penalty and the drive eventually fizzled.
The Grizzlies padded their lead on their next drive, thanks to Olson’s pinpoint accuracy and Barto’s sticky fingers.
A failed conversion left the Grizzlies up 12-0 at the break.
Ely closed the gap in the third quarter on a long drive capped by a one-yard Gaulke plunge. A failed conversion left Ely down 12-6.
But the Grizzlies came right back, needing just 55 seconds to put six more points on the board, thanks to a 38-yard touchdown pass to tight end Matthew Schultz.
Ely drove deep in their next possession, but a Jake Hyppa interception near the goal line stymied the Wolves advance and put them in desperate need of a big play to turn the game’s momentum.
They got just that with a minute remaining in the third quarter, thanks to a 65-yard touchdown run by Eli Conway that put them back in the game, 18-12.
But Ely had little time to savor their rally. With just 42 seconds left in the third quarter, the Grizzlies took possession on their 39-yard line. And it was Olson, again to Barto, who connected on a 50-yard touchdown strike. A successful conversion left the Grizzlies up 26 – 12 as the quarter ended.
Ely showed they weren’t ready to fold. They mounted a six-minute long drive in the final stanza, capped by a four-yard Matt Gerzin run for six.
But that’s as close as the Wolves would ever come. When Ely attempted a squib kick, North Woods recovered the ball near midfield. Two plays later they were in the end zone again, and added two more points on the conversion.
Ely fumbled on their next possession, giving the ball back to North Woods on the Ely 48-yard line. Three plays later, North Woods had added six more, and the conversion left them up 42-18 with just 3:38 remaining. By then, the Grizzlies’ win was sealed.
“They were the best passing team we had seen all season,” said Lamppa. Indeed, Olson completed nine of 13 passes for a whopping 278 yards, with Barto accounting for 141 of them. Chase Kleppe tallied three receptions of his own, for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Parson led the ground game for the Grizzlies, with 148 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries. Garrett Abramson ran for 44 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries.
Ely’s runningbacks both had big days, but it wasn’t enough. Eli Conaway ran the ball 21 times for 148 yards and Matt Gerzin was right behind with 147 yards on 28 carries. Gaulke connected on 3 of 10 pass attempts for 29 yards and Matt Gerzin connected on a halfback pass for 27 yards.
Grizzlies Head Coach John Jirik said the game played out pretty much as he had expected. “I figured we had to maintain our success in passing. That really gives us that little extra edge.”
Jirik said the Grizzlies have tended to start slowly, which was true in Saturday’s matchup as well. “I thought we were in control early, but mistakes let the game turn around,” he said. “Fortunately we’ve been able to explode in the fourth quarter. We tend to play our best football the last 15 minutes. I hope it continues.”
Saturday not only ended the season for the Wolves, it marked the last game of Lamppa’s coaching career. He started as an assistant coach in Babbitt for thirteen years, then spent the next seven years as head coach. During his eight years as Ely’s head coach, he led the Wolves to four state berths in eight years.