October 28, 2004 at 8:46 a.m.
Big Lake 0
They saved arguably their best for last. Playing in their final Rum River conference football game last Wednesday, the North Branch Vikings hammered Big Lake in every possible category, pounding out a 39-0 win. The victory pushed the Vikings season record to 5-3 with the section playoffs up next.
North Branch blew the doors off in the first and built from there. On their first offensive series of the game, just four plays in, Adam Gades broke free for an 18-yard touchdown run, his sixth touchdown over his last four and a half quarters. The drive took just 58 seconds.
The Vikings got the ball right back a minute and a half later after their defense forced the Hornets to punt. Taking over from their own 21, the North Branch offense went to work again, moving down the field with a mixture of running and passing. Seven plays into the drive, Matt Warren found Tony Watters for a 24-yard touchdown pass, moving the North Branch lead to 12-0 after one quarter. This time, the Viking drive covered 79 yards in four and a half minutes.
While the North Branch offense was busy carving up the Big Lake “D”, the Viking defense was quietly having themselves a career game as well. Through one quarter of play, the Viking defense had allowed just 39 yards of total offense and only one first down.
“The kids just executed. We didn’t have as many mental mistakes,” said Joel Swanson, North Branch head football coach. “Plus, I think confidence played into it. The second and third quarter against Chisago Lakes where we played maybe the best we have all year carried over. To be honest, I really didn’t know what to expect before the game, but the kids just executed. What can I say?”
Both units were far from finished.
With one dominating quarter behind them, the North Branch offense carried their attack into the second with relative ease. After scoring on their first two possessions, the Vikings made it three for three at the 9:23 mark of the second quarter. Once again, Gades was the benefactor, scoring on a 10-yard touchdown run, capping off a nine play, 71-yard drive. Gades’ 10 touchdown of the season made the score 19-0.
Gades and the Vikings would find the end zone one more time in the second. At the 4:48 mark, the junior made it a hat-trick with his third touchdown of the game and 11 of the season. The 10-yard run was marked his eighth touchdown over the last six quarters. The score moved the North Branch lead to 26-0 at the half.
Already in control, North Branch took the field in the third quarter, determined to close the door. As it turned out, they didn’t just close the door- they slammed it.
On their first drive of the third quarter, the Viking machine drove 42 yards in 33 seconds to score their fifth touchdown of the game. This time, senior Corey Hutchings found the end zone from six yards out, making the score 32-0. Hutchings finished the game with 102 yards rushing on just eight carries.
“We just wanted to keep it going. That’s a credit to the kids because we talked at halftime about putting them away,” mentioned Swanson. “The kids were really anxious to get out there.”
Not done yet.
On the ensuing drive, the North Branch defense did their drive again, holding the Hornets to three and out, forcing Big Lake to punt for the fourth time in the game, giving the Vikings great field position, just 59 yards away from another score. It took them only two and a half minutes to drive that, ending with a Matt Warren nine-yard touchdown run, increasing the North Branch lead to 39-0. The score was the Vikings fifth rushing touchdown of the game. North Branch out-rushed Big Lake 301-151 in the game.
“Being able to run or pass anytime is key. It keeps their defense on their toes because they have to respect both,” remarked Swanson. “Plus, earlier in the year, we would jump offsides when other teams tried to blitz. Now, we want teams to blitz because we know we can take advantage of that. It opens a lot of things up.”
While the North Branch offense stole the show for the first two and a half quarters, the defense was the story the rest of the way, keeping Big Lake off the board the rest of the way, holding the Hornets to just 192 yards of total offense the entire game. Big Lake picked up just four first downs the rest of the way. Three of them came during the Hornets final drive.
“We practiced for a lot of things that we felt they were going to bring at us. The kids communicated well, they weren’t out of position,” replied Swanson. “The kids did a nice job of recognizing certain things. They knew what was coming, so you have to give them a lot of credit.”
It was just the kind of game Swanson was looking for. Up next, the second season. The Vikings, the number six seed in the section 4AAAA playoffs, will travel to Andover to face the Huskies. Andover is known for their offensive attack, especially their passing game, something Swanson is well aware of.
“They are really impressive. We just have to be on the same page, we have to know when they are going to try and run certain plays like slants or bubble screens,” commented Swanson. “We also have to know that they’re going to complete some passes. I think the biggest thing is to stop their tailback. We have to wrap him up and contain him. If they get their running game going, then they’ll be able to open up the pass even more and they’re awfully scary when they pass the ball.”
The winner of the game will move onto the second round to play either Chisago Lakes or St. Michael-Albertville.
North Branch 39
Big Lake 0
1 2 3 4 F
Big Lake 0 0 0 0 0
North Branch 12 14 13 0 39
NB- Gades 18 yrd. TD run
(Kick failed) 6-0
NB- Watters 24 yrd. TD rec.
(2 pt. conversion failed) 12-0
NB- Gades 10 yrd. TD run
(Kick good) 19-0
NB- Gades 10 yrd. TD run
(Kick good) 26-0
NB- Hutchings 6 yrd. TD run
(Kick failed) 32-0
NB- Warren 9 yrd. TD run
(Kick good) 39-0
North Branch statistics:
Warren- 7-10, 110 yrds., TD
Gades- 17 rush, 179 yrds., 3 TD
Hutchings- 8 rush, 102 yrds., TD
Sederberg- 6 rush, 20 yrds.
Warren- 5 rush, 12 yrds., TD
Archer- 2 rush, -3 yrds.
Charley- 1 rush, -3 yrds.
Mohr- 2 rush, -6 yrds.
Watters- 3 rec., 53 yrds., TD
Hutchings- 2 rec., 29 yrds.
Meier- 1 rec., 16 yrds.
Beaver- 1 rec., 12 yrds.
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