|10/31/2019 3:03:00 PM|
Vikings' season ends on last minute Hermantown touchdown
Hermantown has been a major thorn in North Branch’s side since the two teams joined in section play five years ago.
In that time, the Hawks have ended North Branch’s season three times, including the last two in a row after Hermantown beat the Vikings 21-14 in the section semifinals on Saturday, October 26.
This one was in especially heartbreaking fashion, as Hermantown scored the game-winning touchdown with under one minute left in the game when Peter Soumis hit Noah Torgerson for a 15-yard touchdown. That gave the Hawks a 21-14 lead and no time for a run-oriented North Branch team to answer back.
The game started out like it was going to be a shootout. Hermantown marched their first drive down the field before capping it off with a 34-yard rushing touchdown by Soumis. With the extra point, Hermantown was up 7-0.
On the ensuing kick return, North Branch’s hallmark, the kick return reverse, paid off as they returned the ball all the way inside the Hawks’ 40-yard line. The Vikings couldn’t quite finish the drive off, but it established that they were going to be a threat on special teams and on offense.
After forcing a turnover on downs from Hermantown on their next possession, the Vikings’ offense was kick started by a 23-yard run by quarterback Koby Chouinard. Early in the second quarter, North Branch buried a score from one-yard out when Josh Hindt barreled his way through a gang of Hawks. Emma Mohs trotted out for the extra point and crushed it through, tying the game at 7-7.
It didn’t take long for Hermantown to answer back. On their next drive, they hit two big pases through the air to move into NB’s redzone at the 19 yard line. The Viking defense stiffened up to force a fourth down try, and Hermantown wasn’t satsified just going for the first down, instead taking a shot through the air and converting the foruth down into a touchdown with seven minutes left in the first half.
Chouinard, playing for his NB career, wouldn’t let the offense sputter out on the next drive. After a couple of short runs, he broke free down the sideline for a 45 yard run that moved the Vikings down to H’Town’s 14-yard line.
Hindt did the rest of the work, eventually punching another score in, this time from two yards out on third down to pull NB within one. Mohs knocked through her second extra point of the night and tied the game at 14-14 with less than two minutes remaining before halftime.
With an effective passing offense, though, Hermantown was still dangerous. That proved to be true when they moved down the field quickly, getting the ball insto the redzone before getting a first and goal from the 10-yard line. NB’s defense kept them from moving the ball at all on first and second down, but on third down, the Hawks completed a pass down to the one-yard line, setting up fourth and goal from the one.
The North Branch defensive line, which features multiple seniors playing possibly their last game, stood tall, not allowing the Hawks to score on a rushing attempt and keeping the score tied at 14-14.
In the third quarter, it was mostly a battle between the 40s as neither team could gain much traction and cross midfield. Chouinard eventually bucked that trend with a long run down to Hermantown’s 14-yard line, but the Vikings couldn’t finish the drive and eventually turned th ball over on downs with just under one minute left in the quarter.
The Hawks flipped the field with a long pass out of the shadow of their own endzone, but after driving all the way down to North Branch’s 10-yard line, they were again stifled by the Viking defense and the score remained tied at 14-14.
However, North Branch took over inside their own 10 and needed a first down or two to give themselves some breathing room and their punter room to work with to keep Hermantown from working with a short field.
They got one first down, but a holding penalty then brought them back inside their own 15-yard line, and they eventually had to punt in a bad spot with three minutes left in the game.
The punt wasn’t a great one and with a small return, the Hawks set up shop on offense on North Branch’s 40-yard line.
With under two minutes left, the Hawks nestled inside North Branch’s 25 yard line after two passes, and they moved into the redzone with undeer one minute left.
On third and 10 from the 15-yard line, Soumis connected with Togergerson for the dagger touchdown. The extra point was good and with just 40 seconds left in the game Hermantown had a 21-14 lead.
The Vikings had a decent return to midfield, but trying to make something out of nothing with no timeouts left, they ended up throwing the ball around and losing a lot of yards trying to find a seam to slip through as the clock ticked to zero.
The win sent Hermantown to the section championship game to face Chisago Lakes on Friday, November 1. The Wildcats had beaten top-seeded Cloquet 14-0 in the other semifinal.
The loss ended North Branch’s season at 4-6, just a game short of facing their longtime rival for a section championship and berth to state on the line.
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