October 21, 2004 at 12:49 p.m.
Chisago Lakes 13
It was just a football game. Win or lose, who cares? It could be worse- because it is.
That was the attitude that North Branch took into last Friday’s game with Chisago Lakes. Faced with difficult week away from the field, suddenly the game didn’t matter a whole lot to the Vikings, it wasn’t as important. Sticking together, leaning on one another, forgetting about life for three hours, that’s what the game meant to North Branch.
“We just emphasized to the kids that they better go out and play because you just never know,” said Joel Swanson, North Branch head football coach. “You sure realize what you take for granted and we just wanted to play from our hearts.”
Their hearts had taken a beating.
First, last Saturday, four of their leaders narrowly escaped with their lives after their car rolled over near Forest Lake. Then, last Thursday, just hours before the Vikings were scheduled to take the field against Chisago Lakes, Swanson and his team were notified of another blow- a devastating blow. John Pinsonneault, a member of the football family and step-father to North Branch senior Jake Kosky, was killed in Iraq.
Searching for some normalcy, if only for a few hours, the Vikings channeled their energy into football. Unfortunately for Chisago Lakes, they were the victim.
In the first quarter, the game started fast and furious as both teams moved the ball. About the only thing that wasn’t moving was the scoreboard as both teams came up with defensive stops, keeping the game scoreless after one. Both coaches were pleased with what they saw.
“I thought that was probably the most mentally ready we’ve been this season. On offense, their was a small amount of times where kids went the wrong way or got the play wrong. We were ready to play,” mentioned Swanson. Both teams were moving the ball and making adjustments on defense. For us, we just needed to finish some things.”
“We felt pretty good after the first,” remarked Bill Weiss, Chisago Lakes head football coach. “Even though we didn’t score, we came through with some big plays, some big defensive stands. We definitely felt like it was anybody’s ballgame.”
That pace continued for most of the second quarter, until finally late in the second, the Vikings broke loose. On the heels of a 13 play, 83-yard drive, North Branch moved down the field and scored on a one-yard touchdown run from Adam Gades. With the extra point, the lead was 7-0.
The Wildcats failed to answer, giving the ball right back to the Vikings less than two minutes later, giving the North Branch offense another shot. The Vikings took the opportunity and ran, and passed, their way to the end zone. Set up by a flurry of passes, Gades scored his second touchdown of the game with 1:06 left in the second, making the score 13-0 at halftime.
“You could just feel it in the air. After we got our first score, we just felt like we had something going,” replied Swanson. “Our kids just pressed on the accelerator.”
And Gades was the driver. Getting the brunt of the work out of backfield with Marc Vanden Heuvel out of the line-up (injured in car accident), Gades and the Viking offense took 48 seconds to add to their lead in the third quarter, that’s when the senior back broke one free for 51 yards on just the second play of the drive. Before anyone knew it, the score was 21-0, and counting.
Less than three minutes later, after scoring quick, the Vikings went the other way, mounting an six play drive, stretching 80 yards. Gades finished the drive with his fourth score of the game on a 10-yard touchdown run. For the game, Gades finished with 208 yards on 25 carries.
“The running game starts with the line. You have to get off the ball. The receivers then have to run out their pattern and sell the play, and they did that,” commented Swanson. “It’s not just the guy running the ball, everyone has to do their job and they did.”
“You have to give them credit. They ran the ball with a lot of success,” replied Weiss. “I don’t think it was fatigue as much as it was execution.
“People have to understand that our linebackers for example, their basically all sophomores, which is two years removed from middle school ball,” continued Weiss. “We have a very inexperienced team. On the flip side, they don’t. Most of their offense is back from last year, including their offensive line, and that makes it tough. They just have a lot more depth than we do. But, at the same time, you have to tip your cap to them for executing the way they did.”
Down 28-0, Chisago Lakes got on the board for the first time with 48 seconds left in the third quarter. Senior quarterback Mike Tschida crossed the goaline from one-yard out, capping off a 14 play, 80-yard drive, trimming the North Branch lead to 28-7 with one quarter to go.
In the fourth, the Vikings didn’t back off. Just four touchdowns already in the stat book, Gades notched number five five minutes into the fourth, scoring from 21-yards away. The score moved the North Branch lead to 35-7.
Not done yet, the Wildcats closed out the game with a score of their own on a 10-yard touchdown pass from Tschida to Karl Kaiser, making the score 35-13 with five minutes to play. That was the way the game ended.
With the win, the Vikings improved to 4-3 on the season while Chisago Lakes dropped to 2-5. Both teams have one game left on the schedule before sections begin next week.
“It was the greatest thing to see how the kids all hung in there and did the job,” smiled Swanson. “We hung in there, we bonded as a team, and we gained a lot of confidence. It was great to see the kids feed off one another and help one another out, it was just a great team win.”
Individually for North Branch, despite practicing only one day after being involved in that car accident, Matt Warren finished the game 13-15 for 154 yards. Ed Meier, another passenger in that car that rolled over, led the receiving department with thee receptions for 65 yards, and in the rushing department, Gades obviously led the way with five touchdowns and 208 yards.
“Adam has had some great games where he’s been outstanding for us,” said Swanson. “We were kind of looking at him being more of a fullback at the beginning of the season, but he’s had to make a switch and he’s done a good job with that. He keeps on getting better every game. He’s really responded.”
Chisago Lakes statistics were not released.
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