Football Roundup...News abut Wrenshall and other area teams
WRENSHALL -- First, Dustin Shelton raised his arms. Then, Justin O'Connor pumped his right fist. An instant later, the fence-lined fans and crowded bleachers erupted rowdily.
Wrenshall football was about to beat Cromwell-Wright.
O'Connor's 32-yard field goal snuck inside the right upright with 11 seconds left, as the crowd at Knutson Field exploded into cheers watching the hometown Wrens edge the Cardinals 17-14 in a Great Northern nine-man meeting last Friday night.
O'Connor, a junior kicker who transferred to the small community from Duluth his freshman year, sat out all of last season because of ineligibility rules, only to return as their go-to leg.
Wrenshall Coach Jeremy Zywicki, in his sixth season, said O'Connor practices extra points and fields goals every day with Shelton, the holder. Not many are missed.
"We know he's got a heck of a leg," Zywicki said. "I have all the confidence in the world in him."
That confidence showed last week when Zywicki called a timeout with 19 seconds remaining, and sent his right-footed kicker (and punter) into formation with the game on the line.
Cromwell-Wright Coach Jeff Gronner then called a timeout to ice O'Connor, as Zywicki rushed to their huddle.
"I was very nervous, but coach just told me to stay calm and do what I do in practice," said O'Connor, whose winning kick was the first in-game field goal try of his football career. "I just kicked it, looked up and everyone was cheering."
Cheering may be an understatement, as the Wrens (4-3) -- winners of four in a row -- were jumping up and down; all 14 cheerleaders were in smiles and supportive fans were roaring.
"This is the kind of win that defines programs," said Zywicki, whose Wrens cancelled their 2009 varsity season due to a lack of numbers in a once declining football team. "I don't even know when the last time we beat Cromwell was."
"Decades," guessed assistant coach Joel Swanson.
Shelton and fellow running back Luke Vine rushed for a touchdown each, as Shelton had 71 yards on 18 carries, while quarterback Marcus Virginia threw for 74 yards in victory.
The Cardinals (3-4) -- a storied program with state titles in 1995, 1996, 1998 and 2010 -- are showing their youth, losing four straight. Tyler Hakamaki and Alex Kropp each scored in a game the visitors led 14-7 entering halftime.
"Hats off to Wrenshall, they outplayed us," said Gronner. "I was happy with our first half. In the second, we needed a couple first downs to send it to overtime, but just couldn't."
Instead, O'Connor put the team, and town, on his foot.
"It's tough kicking -- you're either the hero, or the enemy," he said, "So it's encouraging to have an experience like this."
"We practice field goals every day for times like this," Shelton added. "He won the game for us. It was beautiful."
Barnum (6-1) blasted host Ogilvie 48-12 in a Great Polar Red rout last Friday as the Bombers, ranked eighth in Class A, got a pair of touchdowns from Zach Peterson and two more via Zac Carlson.
Carlton (0-7) carded defeat from McGregor in a 50-6 Great Northern nine-man mauling last Friday on the road. The winless Bulldogs' only score came on Dominic Bennett's punt block return.
Esko (4-3) erupted past visiting Eveleth-Gilbert 52-28 in a Great Polar White whipping last Friday. The Eskomos were led by Jaxson Turner's two touchdown runs and interception return.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe (0-2) opened their junior varsity-only football season two weeks ago. The Ogichidaa have an 18-14 loss to Silver Bay, as well as a 26-22 setback to Carlton.
Moose Lake-Willow River (7-0) raged by host Two Harbors 44-7 in a Great Polar White wasting last Friday. The Rebels, ranked second in Class AA, got five touchdowns from David Moonen and Josh Pettersen in raising the team's regular season unbeaten streak to 61.
South Ridge (6-1) ran into a near three-hour power outage delay before blanking host Mountain Iron-Buhl 28-0 in a Big North nine-man meeting last Friday. Bill Redding ran for two touchdowns.
FDLTCC (2-5) flew by Mesabi Range 34-21 in a Minnesota College Athletic Conference win last Thursday in Virginia. The Thunder was led by Ryan Brown and Antonio Marshall's four TDs.