October 23, 2020 at 10:01 a.m.
North Branch was set to receive the opening kickoff, and with a stiff fall wind blowing into the Proctor kicker’s face, he didn’t get much behind the boot. It took a bounce at the 25 yard line of North Branch and Ryan O’Day scooped it up on the run at the 23. He blasted through the left side of the blocking wall and saw nothing but daylight. By the 45 yard line, it turned into a foot race with one Proctor defender still having a chance to make the tackle, but he dove at the 15 yard line to swipe at O’Day’s legs and missed, allowing him to score on the opening kickoff. The Vikes converted their two point conversion to take an early 8-0 lead over the Rails.
The Proctor offense took over after that and quickly realized it was going to be a long day. They found no running room against the swarming NB defense and were forced to punt after going three and out.
With the short field, the Vikings went to work quickly, ripping off two big gains rushing before junior quarterback Andrew Thauwald used a nice play action fake to deke the Proctor defenders. He found a wide open Gavyn Jensen-Schneider in the back left of the endzone for a 13 yard score, his second touchdown hook up in as many weeks with the senior tight end.
After another empty possession for the Rails on offense, North Branch again marched down the field quickly, getting big chunk plays on the ground from Nate Skiba, Ashton LaBelle and Derrick Witte.
Eventually facing a third-and-four from Proctor’s 20 yard line, a trap play up the middle to LaBelle sprung the junior loose. He weaved through the first level of defenders and then made two defensive backs miss with arm tackles before racing to the endzone all alone for another NB score.
As the deficit started to balloon for Proctor, they started to mix in more throws into their offense. They weren’t particularily effective though, whether it was dropped passes or inaccurate throws.
Things really spiraled out of control from them when they faced a third and nine from their own 37 yard line. The quarterback faked a handoff left, only to spin around to throw what was going to be a bubble screen to the right. Sophomore defensive end Adam Johnstone read the play perfectly and was waiting for the throw back. The quarterback’s toss went right into Johnstone’s waiting arms, hitting him in stride. The big man lumbered into the endzone untouched to stretch NB’s lead even wider.
Proctor’s offense continued to stall out. In fact, the Rails didn’t even cross their own 40 yard line until midway through the fourth quarter. North Branch’s defense was up to the task for nearly every run play for Proctor, and were in prime position on pass plays as well, picking the quarterback off twice.
That led to a number of short fields, including one that led to a short Thauwald touchdown run off the right side of the line.
Two more short touchdowns from the legs of Nate Skiba and O’Day capped off North Branch’s scoring on the day, and they were up 46-0 early in the fourth quarter, with the clock moving to running time.
Proctor did make a switch at quarterback midway through the fourth, and found some success through the air, including a late touchdown pass that broke the defense’s shutout.
There wasn’t an NB player who didn’t perform well in this game. All three levels of the defense stood out, and nearly every facet of the offense executed efficiently. It was a total team effort in down Proctor.
North Branch’s next game will be their first road test. It does come against a struggling Hibbing team. The Bluejackets lost to Proctor 22-0 to open the season and just had 76 points hung up on their defense by Cloquet last week.