October 14, 2010 at 9:16 a.m.

Levasseur dazzles in first homecoming win in a half decade

Levasseur dazzles in first homecoming win in a half decade
Levasseur dazzles in first homecoming win in a half decade

Homecoming is always a special time for high school seniors. It is even more important for football players, as the culmination of the week-long celebration -- the main event of the week -- is their Friday night football game.

Although this batch of seniors has obviously played in enough homecoming games over the years, there was something they hadn't been able to do in their time as North Branch Vikings. Actually win the homecoming game on Friday night.

This year was different. Although it wasn't the prettiest game, or even North Branch's best game of the year, they did just enough to beat the St. Francis Fighting Saints 19-13.

The crowd was huge, as a sea of red stretched from one bleacher end to the other, with no space in between. Add in the hundreds of fans that lined the fence from end zone to end zone, and the support for this year's squad was outstanding.

All the fans looked like they would be coming out for naught, though, after the first couple drives of the game.

To open the contest, North Branch moved the ball down the field, but they couldn't finish a drive off again, which has been a recurring problem for the Vikes this year. They can move the ball at will in between the 20's, but have a tendency to stall when they near the red zone.

St. Francis took over after the turnover on downs, and they promptly sped down the field, punctuated by a 25-yard touchdown scamper by Jake Engnell.

The rest of the first half featured a long lull in action, as neither team could break the end zone plane. St. Francis had a very effective drive, in which they converted two fourth downs and milked a lot of time off the clock, but North Branch wouldn't break, stiffening their 'D' up at the 25-yard line and forcing a turnover on downs.

With only a few seconds left in the half, it looked as if North Branch would go into the locker rooms down 7-0, but they finally got a good bounce to go their way.

After forcing a three-and-out from St. Francis at their own 18, the North Branch punt return lined up to try and get a big return, as it was almost certainly going to be the last play of the first half with only 13 seconds left.

The St. Francis longsnapper skied the snap, though, and sent it flailing over the punter's head. As the punter went to track it down, he tried to fall on the ball at the three yard line, but it bounced away from him and into the end zone, where an opportunistic Brett Klun fell on the ball for a game-changing touchdown with only three seconds left on the clock.

The ensuing Tony Ceroll kick was good, and instead of being down a score, North Branch went to halftime with a tie game and the momentum swinging in their favor.

Luke Levasseur, who had himself a monster second half, kept that momentum going in the third quarter. After getting the ball back from St. Francis, Levassuer took a modified counter play 47 yards to paydirt for the go-ahead score. On the play, quarterback Scott Bossard handed the ball off to Zack Smith, who was in motion from left to right before the snap, and Smith then handed it off on the inside to Levasseur, who was coming right to left after the ball was snapped.

The play worked perfectly and had the whole St. Francis defense stumbling and bumbling their way down the field as Levassuer glided into the end zone untouched. The extra point went wide left, and the Vikes had a 13-7 lead.

As the crept later into the fourth quarter, though, St. Francis was in the middle of an effective drive that ended in a touchdown. With the game tied, North Branch looked to have their back up against the wall if St. Francis converted their extra point.

Right-footed kicker Jon Lucas just hooked the ball, though, and pushed it wide left as the game remained 13-13.

Not wanting to lose their sixth straight homecoming game, North Branch did what good teams do -- they responded with a big score of their own.

The ensuing drive look like it might stall towards midfield, but a Bossard pass to left was completed to Levasseur, who made two Saints miss and ended up in a foot race to the end zone. He won the race, gaining the outside edge and completing the 57-yard throw and catch touchdown. Ceroll's kick was off the mark, but North Branch had the lead back.

Clinging to the lead, the North Branch defense came up big when they needed to. St. Francis moved the ball quickly down the field and had just over two minutes to go from North Branch's 32-yard line.

They went for the tie quickly, launching a ball to the outside in one-on-one coverage. Junior Jared Houle made a spectacular play on the ball, getting his head around and tracking the ball all the way until it landed in his arms just in front of the receiver. Houle was down in the end zone, and the Vikes took over from their own 20.

A quick three and out, though, left St. Francis with a few more opportunities still. Three incomplete passes and an interception on fourth down shot down their comeback hopes, and left North Branch celebrating.

As the final buzzer sounded after a kneel down, the students stormed the field, thrilled to see their classmates bring a homecoming victory to North Branch.

The excitement didn't end there, as the Vikes shook hands with a dejected St. Francis team, which has now lost three straight contests after starting the year 3-0, and then proceeded to sing their school song to their fans. After a brief meeting with the coaches, the Vikes left the field through a tunnel of hundreds of classmates and fans that formed near the stadium exit.

"What a great homecoming!" Head Coach Justin Sawyer said after the win. "In front of a huge crowd, this game meant a lot to the seniors who had not won a home varsity game and this was big for the community as it has been five years since winning the homecoming game."

Although St. Francis dominated the time of possession and the first down stats, North Branch came up with the timely playes. "We were able to come up with the big plays we needed to pull out the win," Sawyer explained. "With our balanced attack of 174 yards rushing and 147 yards passing, we were able to outgain the Saints in total yards, and our defense came up with big plays when we needed them including two interceptions, two fumble recoveries, and one TD."

Although Bossard and Smith have been the focal point of the offense this year, Levasseur showed he is capable of carrying the team on his back, also. The senior had 117 yards receiving on three catches and 50 yards rushing on three carries, scoring both second half touchdowns for the Vikes and recording 11 tackles on defense. Levasseur is one of the few Vikings to play both offense and defense, and although he has the injuries to prove it, he gritted out the performance of the season for North Branch.

Also on offense, Smith rushed for 69 yards on 14 carries and had seven tackles on defense, and Bossard had 55 rushing yards on 13 carries. Bossard also went eight-for-14 through the air with 147 yards and a touchdown.

Key performances on the defensive side of the ball came from Houle with 10 tackles and an interception, Carl Neumann with eight tackles and an interception, Klun with seven tackles and the fumble recovery for a touchdown, Zak Carchedi with eight tackles, and Tim Katka with seven.

"This was definitely not a pretty game, but we did what we needed to do to win" Sawyer surmised. "We had some mistakes and break downs so we have some work to do to be ready for Irondale next week."


Comments:

Commenting has been disabled for this item.

Events

February

SU
MO
TU
WE
TH
FR
SA
28
29
30
31
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
25
26
27
28
29
1
2
SUN
MON
TUE
WED
THU
FRI
SAT

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.

Events

February

SU
MO
TU
WE
TH
FR
SA
28
29
30
31
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
25
26
27
28
29
1
2
SUN
MON
TUE
WED
THU
FRI
SAT

To Submit an Event Sign in first

Today's Events

No calendar events have been scheduled for today.