September 24, 2015 at 3:33 p.m.
Duluth East had won only two games the past two and a half years, both over city rival Duluth Denfeld. They were coming off a three-game losing skid in which they were outscored 114-32. And they were fresh off of a near two-hour bus ride down to North Branch.
But, with just over a minute and a half left in the game, senior quarterback Jack Rashid, who threw for nearly 300 yards in the contest, found junior running back Iyzaya Gill for a 27-yard score that pulled the Hounds to within one. Rashid converted the two point conversion on a running play to give the Greyhounds their first non-Duluth win in nearly three years, a 28-27 triumph for them and heartbreak for NB.
The score capped what was an absolutely wild fourth quarter that saw five touchdowns scored and a safety.
To start the game, though, North Branch marched down the field on their first drive. They surprised East with their halfback pass option offense, completing a few long gains. From the 23 yard line, Kennedy Ashley took a toss from quarterback Brandon Miller to the wide side of the field but Ashley kept his eyes down the field, and they eventually lit up like a Griswold family Christmas tree.
He saw receiver Nick Franklin come open without a Greyhound defender in the same zip code. Ashley delivered a perfect strike down the sidelines and Franklin waltzed into the endzone to put the Vikings up 6-0. Evan Amunrud got underneath the his extra point kick and dropped it just short, bonking it off the cross bar as the boisterous home crowd groaned.
A mix of penalties and stalled drives dotted the next quarter and a half for both teams. As soon as one team looked to be driving, they would commit a costly penalty that would halt their progress.
Near the end of the second quarter, there were some drastic momentum shifts in a short period of time. At one point, North Branch was driving, but they fell short of converting a fourth down just past midfield.
On the ensuing play, though, Rashid aired a deep pass down the left sideline that North Branch’s Jacob Souther tracked down and picked off. Souther returned it back to near midfield, but East stood tall again on defense.
East took over short on time but they moved the ball into position to succeed and with a few ticks left on the half, Rashid hooked up with Gill for a 32 yard touchdown strike. The extra point was good and East led at halftime 7-6.
The third quarter was again a practice in stalled drives and stout defense by both teams. North Branch was able to stay true on one drive, and Miller capitalized on it, punching the ball in from five yards out for a touchdown run. A failed two point conversion left the Vikings up 12-7.
In the beginning of the fourth quarter is when things started to get wild. Duluth East put together a long drive and was knocking on the door to take the lead until Ashley flashed his big play ability that allowed the Vikings to beat Grand Rapids earlier this year.
The senior homecoming candidate strafed in front of a Rashid throw and picked it off untouched. The speedster, who went to the state track and field meet this spring in the 4x100 relay, burned past the last line of defense and scored on the 95 yard interception returned for a touchdown.
Another Amunrud kick went awry and North Branch held an 18-7 lead.
The Greyhounds started to understand the peril they were in and put together another good drive, this time, they were able to finish it, with Rashid plunging in from one yard to trim the lead. Their two point conversion was no good and NB led 18-13.
Ashley wasn’t done, though. He added another 90-plus yard score to his resume when he received the ensuing kick at his own seven. A few moves and a strong cut later, he was in the clear where he was able to show off his speed again. Ashley raced down the sideline and hit paydirt with the 93 yard kick return for a touchdown. Amunrud was true on his third kick of the night and put the Vikings in a commanding position up 25-13 midway through the fourth quarter.
The North Branch defense stepped up on the next East drive, forcing a safety when senior Bailey Adams sacked Rashid in the end zone, stretching the lead to 27-13.
Duluth East had fight left, though. They battled back to within one score on a rushing touchdown, and then put together a great drive capped off with the Rashid to Gill touchdown pass and two point conversion.
The quick scores left the North Branch crowd stunned. The Vikings were able to muster up a last ditch effort with minimal time, however. They drove down to the Greyhounds’ 30 yard line, but they turned it over on downs late and East escaped with the 28-27 win.
Ashley was the catalyst for most of the Vikings’ scoring on the night. He scored his three touchdowns in all three phases of the game, offense, defense and special teams. He was two-of-three passing for 32 yards and rushed for 71 yards on 12 carries.
Miller carried the ball 18 times for 103 yards.
The rushing offense wasn’t able to keep up with East’s passing offense, though. Rashid threw for 287 yards and rushed for 85 yard, accumulating nearly 400 yards of total offense by himself.
Gill secured seven targets for 188 yards and two touchdowns for the Greyhounds.
The loss sent the Vikings to a 1-4 record on the year. They host the 1-4 Princeton Tigers on Friday, September 25.
Commenting has been disabled for this item.