October 27, 2011 at 9:37 a.m.

North Branch blasted by TG, bow out in first round to Central

North Branch blasted by TG, bow out in first round to Central
North Branch blasted by TG, bow out in first round to Central

Totino-Grace 54, North Branch 14

Despite a new year and a new team, Totino-Grace proved that once again they are just on another level than North Branch, and quite frankly every other team in the North Suburban Conference.

Although the Eagles opted up to Class 5A this year and still aren't eligible for the North Suburban Conference title because they elect to play a tougher schedule with less conference opponents, some NSC teams still had to play them and North Branch was one of the unfortunate few.

The Eagles hit the ground running with big plays, something that would be all too common throughout the night, in the first quarter. TG quarterback Bob McDaniel hooked up with Charlie Miller for a 33-yard touchdown pass on the Eagles' opening drive of the game, and he followed that up with a 30-yard strike to Andy Moritko on the next drive to put Totino up 14-0 after one quarter.

The second quarter was much of the same as Totino was just too big and too fast for North Branch to deal with. After a two-yard touchdown run by Mason Kaliszewski put the Eagles up 21-0, their big play ability was put on display again as they scored three touchdowns in a row that were over 32 yards.

McDaniel hit Moritko again for a 43-yard touchdown, Jeff Daughtery ran for a 32-yard touchdown and a trick play that had running back Jared Houle throwing the ball turned in to a 41-yard interception return for a score by Eagles' defensive back Jon Weiler.

All the meanwhile, North Branch couldn't get any traction going on offense. The middle was constantly clogged up by the massive Eagle defensive lineman and when they tried to stretch plays to the outside, Brett Klun, Houle and Carl Neumann were constantly strung out to the sidelines by the speed of Totino's linebackers.

At the halftime buzzer, Totino had almost scored as many points as the Vikings had yards gained. It was 41-0 and North Branch had 44 yards on 27 plays. Although Totino's talent was evident, the Vikings were also shooting themselves in the foot plenty with three turnovers in the opening half.

After Totino added two more short touchdowns in the beginning of the third quarter to go up 54-0, many of their starters and regulars came out of the game.

That didn't stop North Branch from at least attempting to break the shutout.

They succeeded when they took over on Totino's 40-yard line after a solid kick return. The first play of the drive went for no gain, but on the second play quarterback Zack Sundly broke through the right side and sprinted 40 yards for North Branch's first score of the game. A Trent Holmes extra point made the game 54-7.

In a feel-good moment of the game, senior Carl Neumann, who has been a significant contributor since he was a sophomore but had been out for most of this year after breaking his hand in a preseason scrimmage, scored his first career touchdown on a three-yard run in the fourth quarter. Holmes' extra point put the score at 54-14, where it would end for the two squads.

On the game, North Branch had only 136 yards of total offense and only seven first downs. Sundly had 66 yards on 16 carries, but outside of his 40-yard touchdown scamper, he had 26 yards on 15 carries. Nobody else had any luck moving the ball on the ground, either. Neumann ran nine times for 22 yards and Klun ran eight times for six yards. He actually had an 11-yard run, so outside of that he had seven rushes for minus-five yards.

St. Paul Central 45, North Branch 7

With their 1-7 record, the Vikings drew the bottom seed in Section 4AAAA. It was the sixth seed, as St. Paul Johnson and St. Paul Como Park had dropped down to Class AAA prior to the season.

With the seeding, the Vikings took a trip down to Griffin Stadium to play third seeded St. Paul Central.

The game started off perfect for North Branch. They received the kick after Central deferred, and they marched down the field little by little. They didn't have many big gains on the opening drive, but they didn't have any negative plays. The Vikes basically alternated between Zack Sundly keepers and Brett Klun sweeps and the Central defense couldn't stop it for under four yards.

Klun capped off the time-consuming drive with a touchdown from 12 yards out and a Trent Holmes extra point put North Branch up 7-0 early over the heavily-favored Minutemen.

But, after that things went awry for North Branch. Central scored on their first drive in three big plays, using their speed to get runners to the outside and around the North Branch defense. Their kicker converted the extra point and tied the game at seven.

North Branch took over for their next drive and after one first down, they were forced to punt on fourth and inches, the snap ricocheted off of Sundly's hands and Central recovered on North Branch's six-yard line.

Although linebacker Kerry Konrad and the rest of the defense stood tall and stopped Central from getting to the end zone on four straight plays, the teams were now playing deep in North Branch's half of the field.

Throughout the contest, North Branch was able to move the ball in chunks of four, five and six yards, but a multitude of errors when they got into Central territory ultimately doomed them. Without much big play ability -- Central's speedsters could track down North Branch's runners once they got past the first level -- the Vikings needed to play mistake-free football, but they didn't.

False starts were drive killers. As were fumbled snaps that lost North Branch yardage and a down. Whenever things started to roll a little bit for North Branch, they would shoot themselves in the foot.

By halftime, it was 21-7 in favor of Central, and at the end of the third quarter, it was still within striking distance at 24-7. But North Branch began to wear down and lose focus, and the mistakes started to happen more frequently. They fumbled another punt snap deep in their own zone and gave Central some easy opportunities to score.

In the end, Central came out on top 45-7 and moved on to play second-seeded Mahtomedi on Saturday.


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