11/3/2017 1:59:00 PM Vikings will rematch Cloquet with a trip to state on the line
North Branch will need to rely on their defense to top Cloquet in the section championship game on Friday night.
North Branch 29, Grand Rapids 6 North Branch’s offense remained a little slower than they had been through the first seven games of the years, but their defense continued to pick up the slack in a 29-6 section victory over Grand Rapids on Saturday, October 28.
The two teams met just two weeks prior to that, and it was an absolute shootout, with the Vikings coming out on top 55-36. This game, played in the cold and wet temps in North Branch, was wildly different, with the Vikings building a decent lead early and grinding out a 29-6 victory.
Aaron Robillard, 10 days after struggling in the regular season finale against Proctor, was back to his old self against the Thunderhawks. He rushed for 240 yards and four touchdowns, including three scores from 60 yards or more out.
He opened the game on the first play from scrimmage with a 66 yard touchdown, added a 60 yard touchdown midway through the first quarter and than tacked on a 65 yard touchdown late in the third quarter. He also punched one in from two yards out midway through the fourth quarter which essentially sealed the game for the Vikings.
The defense, though, was the real star of the day. They limited the Thunderhawk offense to just 137 yards on 53 plays. They had three sacks and forced a turnover from Rapids. It was a far cry from their first performance against the Hawks two weeks ago. In that game, Brody Holm rushed for 161 yards and four touchdowns on 24 carries for a 6.7 average. In this game, he rushed for 80 yards on 22 carries and one score for a 3.6 average.
As a team, Rapids rushed for only 113 yards two weeks after going for 320 yards.
Colton Bauer led the defensive effort with eight tackles and a sack. Tyler Adams, who rushed for 50 yards on offense, had six tackles and two tackles for loss. Austin Stephens added six tackles and Brandon Swanson had 5.5 tackles and a sack. Jordan Bauch added the other sack for the Viking defense.
The defense and Robillard are going to have to be up to the task again if they want to continue their season. The Vikings will be traveling to Cloquet on Friday, November 3 to take on the undefeated and top five ranked Lumberjacks.
At 9-0, Cloquet is coming off back-to-back thrashings of Hermantown. They beat them 42-7 in the regular season finale and 43-6 in the section semifinals.
Cloquet and North Branch played a thrilling 32-28 contest in late September for the Vikings’ homecoming. North Branch came out on the losing end.
The Lumberjacks were able to control the big plays in that game, forcing North Branch to take smaller chunks of yardage than they were used to. It was mostly effective, as it forced North Branch to play mistake-free football to keep it close.
The winner of the game will represent Section 7AAAA in the state tournament while the loser’s season will be over.
The game will kick off at 7 p.m. with the forecast expected to be near freezing temperatures, which will be a far cry from the first meeting, which featured humid 90-plus degree temperatures and multiple players vomiting from the heat.