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August 14, 2018

9/14/2017 2:35:00 PM
Vikings switch gears in second rout of the season
Tyler Adams lunges across the goalline for a touchdown. The senior running back had 116 yards and two touchdowns in North Branch’s win over Hermantown.
Tyler Adams lunges across the goalline for a touchdown. The senior running back had 116 yards and two touchdowns in North Branch’s win over Hermantown.
Head Coach Sam Ferraro and his captains celebrate him being named the High School Sports Rally Coach of the Week.
Head Coach Sam Ferraro and his captains celebrate him being named the High School Sports Rally Coach of the Week.

Only a week after airing it out nearly 30 times and pounding Princeton through the air, the North Branch football squad moved their assault to the ground, and it was just as potent.

The Vikings took on Hermantown, ranked ninth in the state in Class AAAA heading into the game, on Friday, September 8 and showed the Hawks that they weren’t just a one-trick pony after their demolition of Princeton.

Senior quarterback Aaron Robillard rushed for 278 yards passed for 115, and accounted for three touchdowns, while running back Tyler Adams dashed for 116 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Vikings to a 42-28 dismantling of the Hawks.

The North Branch defense began on the field against the Hermantown offense that put up 34 points last week against Moose Lake-Willow River. They allowed a couple of first downs, but locked the Hawks up at the 42 yard line. Hermantown’s Jayden Isensee dropped a beautiful punt, though, inside the five yard line, pinning North Branch deep in their own territory.

Adams quickly got the Vikings out of that predicament, rushing for 15 yards on first down. After an incomplete pass, Adams ripped off another big gain, going for 25 yards near midfield. Then Robillard took over, running for 15 yards and 36 yards on back-to-back plays, setting North Branch up on Hermantown’s five yard line in only four plays.

Robillard hit familiar target Darien Fair with a fade route in the back left corner of the endzone, and Fair used his 6’4” frame to easily come down with the ball and give the Vikings their first score of the game. Evan Amunrud made good on the two-point conversion, putting NB up 8-0.

North Branch’s defense again allowed Hermantown to move down the field, but the closest they got was to the 20. On third and six from NB’s 20 yard line, Adams made his presence known on defense too, sacking Hermantown’s Andy Hooper for an eight yard loss, and putting them into a tough fourth and 14 from the 28 yard line. Hooper’s subsequent pass fell incomplete and North Branch turned the ball over to their offense.

The Vikes moved the ball, but were stopped on a fourth and five from their own 40 yardline, a gutsy call from Head Coach Sam Ferarro. It didn’t take long for the NB defense to return the favor to their coach, though, as they forced the Hawks into a turnover on downs in just four plays.

This time, there would be no tough fourth down decisions for Ferraro. Robillard hit Conner Hartmann on a 14 yard pass, followed by a 10 yard pass to Fair. Adams and Robillard then combined for 16 yards on the ground, putting North Branch at the four yard line. Adams punched it in quickly for his first touchdown of the season.

The rest of the second quarter featured two fruitless posessions from each team, leaving North Branch with the two score lead heading into the half.

North Branch opened their first drive of the second half with an interception tossed by Robillard, which put some wind in the Hawk’s proverbial sails. It took Hermantown only four plays to make the turnover hurt, as they scored on a 24 yard touchdown pass from Hooper to Elliot Peterson. What made the score hurt even more was that it was converted on a fourth down.

But, as has been the case every time so far this season, the North Branch offense answered the bell. Amunrud and Robillard both gained big chunks of yardage on the ground before Robillard hit Fair for a 37 yard touchdown, stretching the lead back to 21-6.

Sensing Hermantown’s panic at the score, the defense locked down the Hawks and forced them into a three and out. Isensee booted a monster punt, again putting NB in tough field position at their own seven yard line. A delay of game penalty followed on North Branch, so they were starting their drive from their own three yard line.

No matter for this offense. Robillard gashed the Hermantown defense for a 43 yard run on their first play of the drive, and Adams finished the Hawks off with a 54 yard touchdown run. A two play, 97 yard scoring drive that stretched the lead to 28-6 and put Hermantown in a near impossible hole to dig out of.

They did try to, though. Their next drive resulted in a five yard touchdown run by Hooper, cutting into the lead early in the fourth quarter.

Robillard again quelled the uprising, following the Hermantown score with a 45 yard touchdown run after Adams had done the early lifting in the drive, putting North Branch up 35-14 with eight minutes remaining in the game.

Hooper orchestrated another scoring drive for Hermantown, but they were battling the clock at this point, as the drive took over five minutes off the clock. Despite being down 35-22, the Hawks elected to kick it off deep instead of an onside, and all that did was pad Robillard’s rushing stats. On the first play of the drive, the signal caller went for 61 yards down to Hermantown’s 10 yard line. Amunrud finished the drive, plunging in from six yards out. Hermantown added a meaningless touchdown as the clock expired to end the game 42-28.

North Branch has now scored 92 points through two games. They only scored 114 total points in 10 games last year and didn’t score their first point until the fourth game of the season.

Their turnaround has been dramatic and sudden this year, and Hermantown was arguably their toughest opponent scheduled. Cloquet still awaits, however. The Lumberjacks were the state representative from Section 7AAAA last year, and are 2-0 this year after thrashing Duluth Denfeld 42-0. Those two will clash on Friday, September 22 at North Branch.

Before that match up, though, the suddenly hot ticket football team will host their first home game of the year against Duluth East on Friday, September 15. The Greyhounds are 1-1 on the year. They lost their season opener 30-15 to Big Lake before beating the Proctor Rails last week 19-6.

Ferraro to be honored
The Vikings’ hot start also earned Ferraro the CBS Minnesota High School Sports Rally Coach of the Week, sponsored by the Minnesota Vikings. He will be featured on WCCO Channel 4 this week.

The Minnesota Vikings will donate $1,000 to the North Branch Activities Department as part of the honor.

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