October 22, 2009 at 8:38 a.m.

Grand powers Vikings to finals

Grand powers Vikings to finals
Grand powers Vikings to finals

Section Quarterfinals

North Branch 4, Duluth Central 3

The Vikings spotted Duluth Central a two goal lead in the first half, then scored four straight to take a 4-2 lead in the section quarterfinal game last Saturday, October 17 in North Branch. But Central pulled within one goal late in the second half, and the Vikings couldn't breathe a sigh of relief till Brian Grand headed a way a long free kick with a few seconds left on the clock to give the Vikings a 4-3. The Viking win knocked Duluth Central out of the playoffs and sent the Vikings to the semifinal matchup with Duluth Marshall.

The Vikings started to come back from two goals down immediately after the second Central goal a Brian Grand took the kickoff, went down the field through the defense and scored. Later in the half, Grand made a great run into the Central box. As the defense came toward him, he slid the ball over to David Cunningham, who one-timed it into the back of the net to tie the game at 2-2.

The Vikings took the lead in the second half when Tyler Ertl hit a left-footer into the bottom right corner of the net. Their fourth goal came when Tony Ceroll made a run with the ball from midfield all the way into the box. Just as he was about to shoot, he was fouled from behind and the Vikings were awarded a penalty kick. Grand stepped up and hit the penalty kick to give the Vikings a 4-2 lead with nine minutes left in the game.

But the game wasn't over yet. On a Central corner kick, Viking goalkeeper Austin Holmes leaped to grab the ball out of the air. After he came down with it cleanly, he was sandwiched between two Central defenders. The ball popped loose and hit the arm of a nearby Viking player. The referee awarded Central a penalty kick and they converted to cut the Viking lead to 4-3.

But the Vikings held off Central till little time remained in the game, and it looked like they were going to get the win without any more suspense. Ceroll carried the ball into the Central box with less than 20 seconds left in the game and injured his ankle as he was fouled. But the referee called nothing, and the Central keeper punted the ball to midfield. As the ball was in the air, he noticed Ceroll on the ground. He blew the whistle, stopping the clock with nine seconds left. Trent Klatt replaced Ceroll. The referee then awarded Central a free kick from midfield. A central defender boomed the ball toward the net. But Grand headed it away to Klatt, and Klatt carried the ball upfield to run out the clock, giving the Vikings an exciting, hard-fought win and sending them to the section semifinal game against Duluth Marshall.

Viking head coach Graeme Jury said "Any time you can come back from two goals down and dominate the other team, it's kind of special. I've got a great bunch of kids who just never give up."

Section Semifinals

North Branch 3, Duluth Marshall 0

The Viking boys' soccer team (15-4-1) continued their dream season in the section semifinal game against second-seeded Duluth Marshall. Nick Miller scored two goals and Tony Ceroll added the other one as the Vikings dominated the game, winning 3-0 at Marshall last Tuesday, October 20 at Marshall. The win moved the Vikings into tonight's section championship game at 7 p.m. at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth. Their opponent will be top-seeded Hermantown (19-1-0), who beat the Chisago Lakes Wildcats 3-1 to earn their way into the title game.

Miller scored the only goal of the first half. Brian Grand received a thru ball and, as he carried the ball toward the Marshall net, was laid out by a Marshall player. As he was lying on the ground, he somehow kicked the ball over to Nick Miller. Miller deked out a Marshall player and scored on a nice left-footed shot.

Ceroll scored in the second half on a nice run with a beautiful finish. Grand received an assist on the play. And Miller's second goal came after he, the Marshall goalkeeper and a Marshall defender all arrived at a ball deep in the Marshall zone at the same time. The Marshall defender knocked Miler over the goal keeper and at the same time hit the keeper and popped the ball loose right in front of Miller. Miller picked up the ball, moved toward the empty net and put it away to make the score 3-0.

Marshall put on some pressure in the last nine minutes of the game. They launched quite a few shots at Viking goalkeeper Austin Holmes, but they were all from outside the box as the Viking defense stood firm. Holmes had to jump to knock two shots over the crossbar to preserve the shutout and the Vikings' 3-0 win.

"Trent Klatt had one of those dream games," said Viking head coach Graeme Jury. "Playing at the left midfield, several times he stole the ball, dribbled through two or three defenders and sent a nice thru ball up to the forwards. David Cunningham played right midfield and also had an outstanding game. In fact, every phase of our game went great tonight. We played solid for the whole 80 minutes."

Because of a leg injury, Grand took on a different role than he usually plays for the Vikings. Jury said "Since Brian was hurt a little bit, we played him at more of a high midfield or low forward and he turned into quite a playmaker for us, getting two assists."

When Grand was asked if he was excited about going to the section championship game, he said "Yeah, totally! My leg is also feeling much better and I should be good to go for the championship game. It was close to a North Branch - Chisago Lakes final. We're excited about the chance to go to beat Hermantown and go to the state tournament."

Jury said "The only thing I know about our next opponent, Hermantown, is that their one loss came at the hand of tonight's opponent, Marshall. That gives us a little bit of extra confidence going into the championship game. Our goal right now is to stay undefeated in sections and get on the carpet at the Metrodome. Our kids really deserve that opportunity."

Jury was impressed with the Viking fans that came up to see the game. He said "We actually had the majority of the fans up there tonight. It seemed like all the cheers were for North Branch. The parents have supported the team all season. We have parents who haven't missed a game home or away. Our opponents, Marshall, are a good team who are very well coached. Their coach is a class act and a very nice guy. Marshall was the state champ last year and the section champ the year before that, so it's no slouch of a program that we beat tonight. That's a real feather in our kids' cap."

Jury is working North Branch Activities Director Mike Cunningham try to arrange a fan bus to head up to Duluth to cheer on the Vikings tonight. If you're interested, call the North Branch High School Activities Office today at 651-674-1514 to see if anything has been set up.


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