11/1/2018 3:31:00 PM Viking offense falls flat in season-ending loss to Hermantown
With their offense rolling the past month and their defense playing lights-out, the North Branch football team thought the second match up of the year against Hermantown would go drastically different than their first.
Unfortunately, for them, it went nearly identical to their first loss of the year nearly two months ago.
The Vikings scored only one touchdown while Hermantown ground out a few long drives and stayed one step ahead of North Branch.
The Hawks opened the scoring, on Saturday, October 27 with a short touchdown in the first quarter, and booted the extra point home for a 7-0 lead.
After two fruitless possessions by both teams, North Branch was finally able to string together enough plays to muck their way down the damp field. Senior Thomas Wurdemann punched in a touchdown early in the second quarter to trim the lead to 7-6. Conner Hartmann was given the rock for the two point conversion but was stuffed just short of the goalline.
Again, two possessions passed without much success from either offense. “Hermantown has a near perfect recipe for what we do on offense,” North Branch Head Coach Justin Voss said. “We want to be physical and grind the defense down, but they have some big boys up front and some very good linebackers.”
Voss did say the Vikings had a bit of a different gameplan coming in, since they had made a quarterback change from the last time they played the Hawks, but Hermantown was ready for it. “We were hoping our ability to get outside would maybe loosen some of their defense in the middle, but they contained and wouldn’t allow us to get outside while staying strong up the middle.”
At that point in the game, the field position battle had been tilted in Hermantown’s favor the whole time. Outside of their lone scoring drive, the Vikings were always just clawing to get out of the shadow of their own end zone. But, they were finally able to flip the field with a great punt that was downed at the Hawks one yard line. Voss figured this would be the time they could stand tall on defense, force a punt and perhaps take the lead with a score. Hermantown had other ideas, though. Senior running back David Cornelius found a small sliver in NB’s defense and turned it into an 83 yard run. Despite a Viking defender chasing the play down and catching Cornelius, the damage was done and the Hawks scored a few plays later to take a 14-6 lead just before halftime.
Hermantown added another score just after the break, and North Branch’s offense just never was able to break a big play or string together enough plays to score again. Voss admitted when you play the ‘Power T’ running offense, there’s not much room for errors, and when a defense forces you to go on 10-15 play drives to move the ball, it can be very challenging. “They just played the field position game perfectly,” Voss explained. “We put together multiple 40 to 50 yard drives, but we still were left with 30 to 40 yards to go still, and we seemed to stall out. It was a defensive battle on a sloppy, mucky field, but Hermantown came out on top.”
The loss ends the Vikings’ season at 7-3. Despite the disappointing finish, it was a very successful season in North Branch. There was a lot of uncertainty around the program after former Head Coach Sam Ferraro left the program and they graduated a very talented group of seniors. With Voss taking over, the offense was barely recognizable, going from a wide open spread passing attack to a Power T, run heavy barrage. “I can’t say enough about these players,” Voss said. “I was a new head coach and brought in a brand new offense after a successful season. It would have been easy for them to question why the drastic changes. But they didn’t. They bought in and had success. They could’ve folded after starting 1-2 and traveling to state-ranked Cloquet on their homecoming, but they fought and worked their tails off. This batch of seniors is defined by their work ethic, and they set the tone for the whole program. The guys were great all season and we had a good run. They believed in me and that’s not something that was easy to do with all the early changes.”
Voss had mentioned early in the season that he wanted to continue to build on what last season’s team did and the success they had, and he noted that he thinks not only did this team continue to build, but they built an even stronger foundation to go forward with. He also noted the appreciation he had for his coaching staff. “I learned so much from my staff and I’m very thankful for them. They want to build this thing up too and they know how to handle their business. They are just as responsible for moving the program in the right direction.”