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December 7, 2019

10/24/2019 3:06:00 PM
NB stumbles in season finale, but crushes Denfeld in first round of sections

Grand Rapids is now out of North Branch’s section, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.

The Hawks have a good team this season, and they showed it Wednesday, October 16 when they rumbled over the Vikings 49-20 during the MEA-shortened week.

The win moved Grand Rapids to 6-2 on the year and dropped North Branch to 3-5 overall.

Scoring was started by the Thunderhawks late in the first quarter when Caden Hofstad broke free for an 80-yard touchdown run for  GR.

They weren’t done in the first half, either. They got a long rushing touchdown of 47 yards from John Bonner and another short one from Hofstad to extend their lead to 20-0.

The Vikings did answer back with a late touchdown and two-point conversion of their own when Josh Hindt punched the ball in from a yard out and Koby Chouinard made good on the two point try.

Unfortunately, in the Thunderhawks first drive of the second half, they had another big strike, with Bonner catching a 58-yard touchdown pass to put GR up 28-8.

The Vikings offense, which had been dormant for a quarter and a half to start the game, started to fire on all cylinders. They put another drive together, culminating in a Chouinard 15-yard touchdown run to trim the lead to two scores at 28-14.

But, the big plays just kept rolling for the athletic Thunderhawks. They returned the ensuing kickoff 73 yards for a quick answer, stretching their lead to 34-14.

Moving into the fourth quarter, things just kept getting tougher for North Branch.

Grand Rapids quarterback Trent Johnson took a 33 yard rush to the house to stretch the lead to 42-14, and then he hit Bonner again for a 49-yard touchdown pass that ballooned the lead to 49-14.
Hindt did add a late touchdown for the Vikings, from five yards out, but it was much too little, much too late for North Branch.

The big plays absolutely killed North Branch in this game. Outside of Hofstad’s nine-yard touchdown run, the shortest score was from 33 yards out. Their average touchdown length was over 50 yards.

Johnson went four-of-four for the Hawks with 138 yards and two touchdowns, and they averaged over 12 yards per carry rushing the ball.
It was a tough draw, but luckily for the Vikings, they won’t see the Thunderhawks again like they might have in seasons past, as they’ve moved to Section 8AAAA.

North Branch 48, Duluth Denfeld 6
The Vikings took on Duluth Denfeld for the second time in three weeks in the first round of their Section 7AAAA playoffs Tuesday, October 22.
They had no problem the first time, winning 59-14, and they followed that with another demolition, winning 48-6 over the Hunters to advance to the section semifinals at Hermantown  Saturday, October 26 at 6 p.m.

The offense got started when Derek Witte recovered a fumble for the North Branch defense on the first possession of the game, and that eventually led to a short Hindt touchdown run.

On the next possession, it was the same story. The NB defense forced another fumble, this one recovered by Sage Apel. This time, the offense used Austin Sonnek to finish the ensuing drive, and he scored on a six-yard rushing touchdown.

Emma Mohs’ extra point was good and NB was up 13-0.

Eric Nadeau, who returned from his injury in the season opener against Mora, chipped in a long run for the Vikings on their next drive, which Chouinard punctuated with a five-yard score.

Mohs hit her second extra point of the night to make it 20-0 in favor of NB.

The defense and special teams continued to shine in this one. On the Hunters’ next drive, the defense shut down any positive plays and force a punt from Denfeld.

Gavyn Jensen-Schneider busted through the leaky Denfled line and blocked the punt to give the North Branch offense great field position.

They made good on it, getting a nine-yard touchdown run from Ashton Labelle, the first of his career.

Mohs chipped in the extra point to go up 27-0.

Chouinard ended up adding a 20-yard score before halftime, and that stretched the lead to a near insurmountable 34-0 at the break.

Chouinard added a passing touchdown to his resume, tossing a seven yard score to Cole Olson for his first career varsity touchdown also.

Senior Danny Hoveland eventually got in on the scoring party in the fourth quarter with a one-yard score to cap off North Branch’s onslaught.

The win sends the Vikings to Hermantown on Saturday. They were beaten by the Hawks earlier this season 28-12, but they had a few injuries at the time, and Hermantown had a bad loss in their last game of the regular season, dropping a contest to Proctor, who was 2-6 on the year and which NB had beaten handily.

It will be a tough test for the Vikings, but one they have a chance of passing if they play well.

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