|10/3/2019 3:53:00 PM|
North Branch can't shake funk, fall to Lumberjacks
The North Branch football team dropped it’s third straight game on Friday, September 27 under the beautiful night sky at the new Viking Stadium.
They hosted Cloquet one week after their homecoming, and the Lumberjacks made sure NB wasn’t able to rebound from their loss to Duluth East.
The scoring got started after an empty possession from both teams. But, Cloquet had pinned North Branch deep in their own territory with a nice punt. When the Vikings couldn’t get anything going on offense, they had to punt from their own endzone, and that’s when disaster struck. Markus Pokornowski fielded the short punt at the 35-yard line and weaved through North Branch defenders to take it to the house and put the ‘Jacks up 6-0 after the missed PAT.
The Pokornowski name is just below a cuss word in North Branch after Marcus’s older brother, Tim, quarterbacked Cloquet to a section championship win over the Vikings just two years ago.
The rest of the first quarter played out between the 20s as both defenses played well.
Eventually, North Branch put together a drive good enough to pin Cloquet inside their own 10 yard line, and it paid off.
The fiery Johnny Snaza pounced on a Cloquet fumbled and brought it back for a touchdown, evening the score at 6-6. The Vikings would fail on their two point attempt and the game remained tied. The score stayed at 6-6 through the rest of the first half as North Branch’s defense continued to play well, including thwarting a field goal attempt late in the second half.
The Viking offense continued to struggle in the second half, despite starting quarterback Koby Chouinard returning from his injury last week.
On their first punt of the second half, they had another short kick, which allowed Cloquet to take over at NB’s 31 yard line. They followed that up with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Tony Johnson. The extra point put Cloquet up 13-6.
North Branch returned the ensuing kickoff to midfield, but their offense was again stuffed, this time turning it over on downs.
The defense was up to the task, however. On the second play after the offense turned it over on downs, the North Branch defenders caused a fumble and recovered it near midfield to give the offense another shot, and this time they made good on the turnover.
The Vikings marched down to the redzone and ground their way into the endzone with a two-yard touchdown plunge from Austin Sonnek, trimming the lead to 13-12. The Vikings decided to go for two again, and they were stopped short again, leaving them down by one.
After all of the jockeying between the two teams and the strong play from the North Branch defense, the physical toll started to show. Cloquet was all of a sudden able to move the ball a bit better, despite committing some costly penalties. They eventually made their way into the endzone, with Pokornowski scoring from six yards out to stretch the lead to 19-12. Cloquet curiously went for two, trying to make the game a two-score game, but they fell short, keeping North Branch in the game down just seven.
The Viking offense took over with hopes on tying or taking the lead, but they got themselves into a fourth and five at their own 26 yard line. The shot themselves in the foot and committed a false start, pushing it to fourth and 10. They fell short on the conversion, dashing their hope and giving Cloquet great field position.
Pokornowski put one more score on the board for Cloquet, as they didn’t have to move very far down the field for the score, leaving the score at 26-12 with just over a minute left in the game.
North Branch fell to 1-4 with the loss, their third straight. This week’s game, though, should be a get-right opponent for them. They’ll travel to Cheever Field in Hibbing to take on the Bluejackets. Hibbing is 0-5 on the year and has been outscored by an average of 45 points per game, including a 41-14 drubbing at the hands of Proctor last week, a team North Branch beat handily a few weeks ago.