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January 18, 2022

11/5/2021 1:08:00 PM
Vikings clobber Cloquet, playing for section title

Just 10 days after waxing Cloquet 49-13, the North Branch football team hosted the Lumberjacks again, this time with their seasons on the line.

North Branch, the top seed, was playing their first section game and Cloquet, the fourth seed, was fresh off of a win over Duluth Denfeld in their playoff opener.

Despite a week and a half and a game in betwen, the results were largely the same between the two teams. Although North Branch didn’t race out to the huge halftime — NB was up 42-0 at half in the first meeting, the final score wasn’t much different.

North Branch opened the scoring in the first quarter with a nice rushing drive that was capped off with a 15 yard touchdown by Sam Sonnek, who was started to receive more carries late in the season, and is making them count.
The North Branch defense, which held strong against Cloquet in the first meeting, was up to the task again, shutting down the Lumberjack offense in the first quarter.

After forcing a punt on Cloquet’s first drive, North Branch’s Loghan Croal made a house call from 45 yards out to score NB’s second touchdown of the game. Sonnek’s two point conversion run was good and NB was up 14-7.

Cloquet did put together a drive in the second quarter that ended in a touchdown and extra point, and that chopped the lead in half to 14-7 by the halftime buzzer.

But, the Vikings didn’t take long in the second half to establish control over the game. Their first drive ended in a seven yard touchdown pass from Andrew Thauwald to Adam Johnstone, and then Sonnek busted another long score, going for 55 yards. The second two-point conversion was good and that brought NB’s lead to 28-7 at the end of the third quarter.
Thauwald added another touchdown toss to Johnstone, which means the junior tight end now has six catches on the season and all six of them have been for touchdowns. The two point conversion was no good, but at that point, the game was well in hand. Cloquet added one late meaningless long touchdown for the final score of 34-14.

Even with leading running back Ashton LaBelle on the shelf for the game, the Vikings rushing attack barely missed a beat. Sam Robillard ripped off big chunks of yards and went for 117 yards on just 11 carries. Sonnek had 114 yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries, as he picked up most of the slack created by LaBelle’s absence. Croal had 50 yards and a score on four touches.

The defense shut down Cloquet for the second game in a row. Ryan O’Day, Robillard, Sonnek, Cole Olson, Tyler Schneidewind, Gabe Huset and Johnstone led the way for the Vikings.

The win set the 9-0 Vikings  up for a rematch with Grand Rapids with a trip to the state tournament on the line on Friday, November 5 at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth.

The two teams battled in early October, with North Branch coming out on top 21-20 in part because of a Thunderhawk coaching decision to kick an extra point when up by four points. Even though they made the kick, it only stretch their lead to five points and backfired when NB scored a touchdown late in the game and despite missing the two point conversion, they still won by the one point margin.

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