October 17, 2005 at 1:05 p.m.
The game began with a series of miscues that kept the crowd involved. The first came after a Viking line drive kickoff bounced off the pads of a surprised Knight. The Vikings pounced on the ball. That early advantage was negated by an opening drive fumble by the Vikes.
The Viking defense held and forced the Knights to punt. This time, the home team mounted a drive capped with a 15 yard Justin Novak run. Adam Gades kicked the PAT and the Vikings enjoyed an early 7-0 lead.
The North Branch defense held and the offense did its job, again. This time, the Vikings scored on a 20 yard TD run by Gades, who followed with another extra point. The fans were happy with, what seemed at the time, a comfortable 14-0 lead as the first quarter ended.
However, the sun had not set on the Knights. Irondale scored to narrow the margin to 14-6. The Vikings came right back. Mike Carlson scored on a 20 yard pass from Matt Warren. Gades connected on the PAT and the margin was 21-6. Just before halftime, Irondale scored on a 24 yard pass. That brought the score to 21-12 at the half.
The second half started on a good note for the Vikings. North Branch widened the gap to 28-12 when QB Warren ran for a 51 yard score with 3:21 remaining in quarter three. Irondale responded with a drive that resulted in a five yard run and a two point conversion that left the score 28-20.
Things seemed to be going Irondale's way as the last 12 minutes started to tick away. The Vikings were forced to punt on the first possession in the final stanza. The Knights had almost given up on the run. The Viking defense was unable to put any consistent pressure on Knight QB Nick Colwell. Colwell was picking the Viking D apart.
Fortunately, on its next possession, Irondale stopped itself with penalties. On third and 30, Colwell tried a pass up the middle. Novak was in the right place and knocked the ball down. On the next play, the Irondale punter was unable to handle the snap and the Vikings swarmed over him. The result was a safety and a 30-20 Viking lead.
On the ensuing kickoff, Novak took the ball on the Viking 35. He followed his blockers up the middle, broke through the first wave of tacklers, veered to his left and outran the rest for a 65 yard return. Gades kicked the extra point and the Vikings had a 37-20 lead as the three-quarter mark arrived.
That margin narrowed quickly as the Irondale passing game struck with 10:21 remaining. A 33 yard TD pass and a two point conversion left the score 37-28.
Thanks to a nice return by Dillon Kost, the Vikes enjoyed good field position at the NB 49. Irondale’s defense held and the Vikings were forced to punt. With eight minutes to go, the Knights were backed up to the 18 yard line. However, they mounted a drive that was highlighted by an 18 yard quarterback draw and a 15 yard fourth down completion. That threat ended when Novak intercepted Colwell in the Viking endzone.
Once again, the Vikings were unable to move the ball and were forced to punt with 3:17 left.
The Knights went to the air and brought the score to 37-34 with 2:29 to play.
The crowd was nervous when Irondale tried an onside kick. Jake Smith fielded it cleanly for the Vikings. The home squad ran out the clock, with Novak gaining enough yardage for a key first down that secured the 37-34 victory.
“It was great to get a win. After two tough losses, our confidence was lacking. It was important to jump out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and to come out in the third quarter to take a 37-20 lead to begin the fourth. But, we gave up two TD’s on big passes, one being on a blown coverage. Fortunately, we recovered the onside kick with 2:29 to play and were able to run out the clock. I thought a key was that we were able to step up and make some big plays and we won the turnover battle for the first time this season,” concluded Viking head coach Joel Swanson.
The Vikings’ next opponent is Chisago Lakes. The arch rivals take the field at 7 p.m. in North Branch Friday, Oct 14.
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