10/5/2017 11:07:00 AM Vikings got right back on track with a 49-14 demolition of Hibbing
by JEFF NORTON SPORTS EDITOR
After coming off their first loss of the year against Cloquet two weeks ago, many were curious how North Branch would respond traveling up to Hibbing for their next game.
The answer was emphatic and absolute. The Vikings got right back on track with a 49-14 demolition of Hibbing. Senior quarterback Aaron Robillard continued his absolute tear through the district, combining for over 500 total yards and five touchdowns in the big win.
The game didn’t start well for North Branch. They received the opening kickoff, but on their second play from scrimmage, Darien Fair fumbled the ball to the Hibbing defense, giving them excellent field position to start.
The North Branch defense, which has seen some struggles at times this year, was up to the task, though. They gave up a couple of first downs but on fourth and four from North Branch’s 21 yard line, Cameron Irvin busted through the Hibbing offensive line and squashed Nick Belich in the backfield for a two yard loss.
On North Branch’s second possession, they were back to their old selves, ripping off big chunks of yards as they marched down the field. On third and nine from Hibbing’s 19 yard line, Thomas Wurdemann busted through for what looked like the game’s opening touchdown, but a holding call brought the ball all the way back to the 28 yard line and set up a tough third and 18 situation.
Wurdemann only got a few yard back on his next try and Robillard’s fourth down pass fell incomplete as North Branch had another stalled drive.
The defense, however, picked up the slack. So many times this year, the offense has been explosive and helped the defense, so they decided to repay the favor. Wurdemann sacked Hibbing quarterback Blace Tomberlin on third and nine from Hibbing’s 21 yard line, setting up the Vikings in great field position after Nick Hunziker returned the punt nine yards to Hibbing’s 41.
On North Branch’s first play of the drive, Robillard hit Hunziker for a 35 yard strike, setting up the Vikings with a first and goal from the six yard line. Robillard punched it in two plays later for a 6-0 North Branch lead. Robillard called his own number on the two point conversion, stretching the lead to 8-0.
The next Hibbing possession ended the exact same way as the last one. They were forced into a third and long and Colton Bauer shot through the Hibbing offensive line, sacking Tomberlin to force the Bluejackets to punt.
Wurdemann did the heavy lifting early on the ensuing drive rushing for 27 yards on two carries. A few more small runs set up the Vikings with third and two from Hibbing’s 37 yard line, and Robillard took it to the house from there, scoring his second touchdown of the night. The two point conversion was no good, putting the Vikes up 14-0.
The North Branch defense stood out again, forcing their third straight three and out, this time Bauer stopped Tomberlin for no gain on third and five, forcing yet another Hibbing punt.
North Branch’s quick strike offense immediately rewarded the defense’s tenacity. Robillard connected with Fair for a 54 yard gain on the first play after the punt, setting NB up deep in Hibbing’s territory. Three plays later, Robillard ran it in from five yards out for a 20-0 lead. He connected with Fair for the two point conversion, stretching the lead to 22-0.
It was looking like it might be a laugher of a night, but the Hibbing offense finally came alive. They were kickstarted by a 38 yard pass from Tomberlin to Austin Lasky to give Hibbing first and goal from the eight yard line. The North Branch defense answered at first, with Bauch sacking Tomberlin for a 10 yard loss and setting up a third and goal from the 19 yard line. Tomberlin found Joe Flaten for the improbable touchdown pass, though, giving the Jackets their first points of the night and trimming the lead to 22-8.
North Branch did get aggressive on their next possession with only four minutes left in the half, but they only lost yardage, which forced a punt, and surprise, Robillard bombed a 41 yard punt down the field, making sure Hibbing wouldn’t have a short field to work with.
The Vikings defense stepped up and forced Hibbing into a three and out, setting them up with decent field position and a minute and a half to work with. They drove all the way down to Hibbing’s 10 yard line with seven seconds left in the half, but Robillard’s desperation attempt for a touchdown pass in the endzone results in an interception, and the half ended with the score 22-8.
Coming out of the half, Hibbing received the kickoff and put together their most efficient drive of the night. They took 12 plays and five minutes off the clock before Tomberlin hit one of his receivers for a three yard touchdown. The point after attempt missed, but Hibbing was all of a sudden just one score down at 22-14.
North Branch would have none of that, though. They took only four plays on their next drive to score an answer. Robillard hit Fair for gains of eight and 29 yards, and Tyler Adams ran for 20 and seven yards on the drive, putting the Vikings up 28-14.
As Hibbing attempted to put another score on the board, they were stymied when safety Evan Amunrud picked off a Tomberlin pass at North Branch’s 27 yard line, putting th Vikings offense back in business.
It took them only seven plays and two minutes to cash in on the turnover, when Wurdemann rushed in from 11 yards out for a score, moving the score to 34-14. On Hibbing’s next possession they started to drive again, but it ended in the same way as the one prior, Amunrud picking off Tomberlin deep in North Branch’s territory.
Again, the Vikings made good on the turnover, with Robillard hitting Pilz for a 47 yard touchdown pass, giving the Vikes a near insurmountable lead at 42-14 with 10 minutes left in the game.
The Bluejackets did drive all the way down to North Branch’s five yard line, but they were for it on fourth and two, and the Vikings batted down a pass in the end zone, turning the ball over.
North Branch was just in clock-killing mode at that time, and after grinding out a first down out to the 15 yard line, Robillard ripped off an 85 yard touchdown run to extend the lead to the game-ending 49-14 tally.
Robillard’s ridiculous night included 19-of-26 passing for 277 yards and a touchdown and 231 yards rushing and four touchdowns.
Tyler Adams, who seemed a bit worn down in the game against Cloquet, carried the ball only nine times for 75 yards, and Wurdemann had 59 yards on seven carries.
Asa team, the Vikings gained an astounding 638 yards, averaging over a first down per play at 10.6 yards. They had 27 first downs to Hibbing’s 16 and were five-of-nine on third down compared to five-of-15 for the Bluejackets.
Duluth Denfeld is up next for North Branch, and that shouldn’t be much of an issue. The Hunters are 0-5 on the year and have been outscored 147-32. The game will be at home at 7 p.m. for North Branch.