October 20, 2011 at 9:33 a.m.
In search of their second win on the season, the North Branch football team ran into a team on a roll.
Although Irondale had three losses on the year, they have all come at the hands of ranked teams, Spring Lake Park, Hopkins and Totino-Grace, and among their wins is a victory over St. Francis, their only loss on the season.
Plus, North Branch upset Irondale last year at their home field in Mounds View, so the Knights would be looking tom extract a little payback, and it looked like that payback was going to be plentiful early on.
After a stalled early drive by North Branch, the Knights took over on North Branch's 43 yard line and promptly marched down the field and scored a quick touchdown on a four-yard touchdown run by Irondale's junior quarterback Justus Canfield, a name that would be called over the loudspeakers often on the night.
The two teams jockeyed back and forth a bit for the rest of the first quarter as they both were trying to strike the next blow, which would be pivotal.
The Knights would strike that blow after an interception deep in North Branch's territory. Although they weren't able to move the ball enough to score a touchdown, a Dustin Weinmann field goal for the Knights made it 10-0 in their favor.
Zack Sundly, Brett Klun and the rest of the North Branch offense just couldn't answer back against the stifling Irondale defense, which has been stout at times this year.
After the Knights took over on the Vikings' 45 yard line, it took them only five plays to move that distance, culminating with a three yard touchdown run by Canfield to stretch the lead to 16-0. The Weinmann extra point moved it to 17-0.
North Branch put together a decent drive as an answer, riding Klun and Sundly and newly returned running back Carl Neumann, but the drive stalled out for the Vikings, and the Knights offense again went to work dissecting the North Branch defense.
It took them less than a minute to move 72 yards on the NB defense. Canfield stuck his hand in the proverbial cookie jar again, finishing the drive with a 14 yard touchdown pass to Ryan Schwartz. Weinmann's extra point made the game 24-0 and North Branch looked like it was going to get blown out at home.
However, this squad wasn't ready to go down without a bit of a fight.
After battling to a stalemate for much of the third quarter, the Vikings broke through with a methodical nine play, 75 yard drive that was capped off by a three yard Sundly touchdown run over the right guard that knocked the Knights' lead to 24-6. Neumann scored his first points of the year when he took the two-point conversion in, cutting the lead to two scores at 24-8.
On the ensuing Irondale drive, the Vikings got the shot in the arm they needed when sophomore Riley Jacobson stepped in front of a Canfield pass and picked it off, returning it to the 28 yard line and setting North Branch up in phenomenal field position.
Klun and Sundly didn't take long to finish what Jacobson started, hooking up on a 28-yard passing touchdown that trimmed the lead to 10. Sundly's two point conversion was good, and all of a sudden, the Vikings were only one touchdown back heading into the fourth quarter.
However, that was as close as they'd get. On Irondale's next drive, Canfield hit Nathan Mills for a 20-yard touchdown pass that stretch the lead back to two scores.
A North Branch turnover on their next drive gave Irondale a short field, and even more momentum. Canfield finished the drive, and essentially the game, quickly with a 35-yard touchdown run to his right.
The Knights added a Weinmann 25-yard field goal later in the game as North Branch could never get things going very far because they kept turning the ball over. At the end of the night, they had thrown four picks -- three by Sundly and one by Reid Johnson -- and fumbled away a ball. All but two of the Irondale scoring drives started in North Branch territory.
The constant turnovers also led to a very wore out North Branch defense. By the end of the game, the Knights had run 20 more offensive plays than North Branch and had held the ball nearly four minutes longer.
On the night, North Branch's usually potent running attack was held at bay by Irondale, and down by such a wide margin, they had to pass a lot, which hasn't been their game.
Sundly ended the night as the leading rusher with 47 yards on 14 carries, but 18 of those came on one carry. He was also nine-of-17 throwing for 125 yards and one touchdown, but he also tossed three picks.
Klun had only 14 yards on six carries, but added 51 yards on four receptions. Neumann, back in action for the first time this year after a broken hand in the scrimmage, carried five times for 10 yards.