Cardinals happy to be at full strength for playoffsThe Cromwell-Wright Cardinals’ thrashed the Floodwood Polar Bears 30-12 in a Section 5 Nine-Man semifinal on a brisk Saturday evening at Hammer Field in Floodwood.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
FLOODWOOD – Tyler Hakamaki didn’t touch the football often Saturday night, but the Cromwell-Wright sophomore was definitely a factor in Saturday’s playoff game against arch-rival Floodwood.
Returning for his first game since breaking his left fibula in his team’s season-opener Aug. 31, Hakamaki – fully-healed nearly two months later – rushed for a score and led in tackles en route to the Cardinals’ 30-12 thrashing of the Polar Bears in a Section 5 Nine-Man semifinal on a brisk Saturday evening at Hammer Field in Floodwood.
Hakamaki, a 5-foot-10, 194-pound fullback-linebacker, forced a fumble in the second quarter and scored a 4-yard touchdown in the third. He ran for 45 yards on 10 attempts, but most of all, created energy.
“We got Ty back; it got us pumped,” said Cromwell-Wright senior quarterback Jared Hutar, who accounted for three touchdowns in the rout. “He’s our most physical running back and our middle linebacker. He’s just physical; we like that most. Now we’re at full strength.”
Hakamaki said he returned to full strength after using crutches, wearing a walking boot and seeing a sports medicine doctor. He said he lifted weights to keep his upper body toned. He was cleared to play last Monday, had full-contact practice Wednesday and competed Saturday night.
“I’m feeling good now,” Hakamaki said after the game. “I started playing football in fifth grade and my dad has had me working out ever since I was young. I put all of my hard work into football.”
Cardinals Coach Jeff Gronner agreed.
“He’s one of our hardest workers all offseason,” he said. “He broke his leg in the first quarter of our first game but, now, having him back really helps. It’s huge to have him back.”
Cromwell-Wright (6-4) never trailed Saturday, avenging an earlier 24-21 road loss to Floodwood Oct. 12. Quarterback Willow Christensen scored both touchdowns for the Polar Bears.
The Cards have eliminated the Polar Bears in three of the last four playoff matchups. Overall, the Cardinals have won seven of the rivals’ last eight meetings, and have been to 16 state tournaments, winning four state championships.
“I think this was one of our better games, but not our best one yet,” said Hutar, who also totaled 200 all-purpose yards Saturday. “We just keep in mind that we want to honor all of the guys that came before us and played hard. We want to play hard like them, and make it to State.”
To do so, the Cardinals will have to get by pass-heavy South Ridge (9-1) in Friday’s Section 5 Nine-Man final at 6:45 p.m. at Public Schools Stadium (PSS) in Duluth.
“They have a couple backs, a few receivers and quarterback who throws a nice ball; they’re very well-balanced,” Gronner said of the top-seeded Panthers, which have won nine straight games. “But our guys are excited; it’s been our goal all season to get to this game. We limited [Hakamaki] on offense [Saturday]. Maybe we can get him some more touches on Friday.”
Bombers and Rebels play for section titles Thursday
Like the Cardinals, both Barnum and Moose Lake-Willow River will play for section titles this evening (Nov. 1) in a doubleheader at PSS.
The Bombers (8-2) face Cook County (9-1) in the Section 7A final at 4:45 p.m., followed by the unbeaten Rebels (10-0) and Duluth Marshall (7-3) at 7 p.m., with ML-WR seeking its seventh straight Section 7AA crown.
“It’s definitely going to be four quarters of hard football,” said Barnum Coach Brian Robertson, whose host Bombers shut out Walker-Hackensack-Akeley 55-0 in Saturday’s semifinals seeking their first state trip since 2010.
“This is what our program is geared for,” said Rebels Coach Dave Louzek, whose team pounded visiting Eveleth-Gilbert 61-13 Saturday in the semifinals. “We gear toward the section finals, look to come out the winner and hopefully then get the chance to compete for a state championship.”