Football champions: One out of three ain't badOne of three Carlton County football teams wins in section championships Thursday
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Barnum bows out to Braham
DULUTH — Zach Peterson of Barnum watched every play from the football sidelines Thursday night, but perhaps the hardest one to witness was the one that ended his high school playing career.
John Larson led Elijah Overton on a 63-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline with 6:47 remaining in the fourth quarter, as Braham bettered Barnum 28-20 for the Section 7A prep football championship on a rainy Halloween evening at Public Schools Stadium in Duluth.
Peterson, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior fullback, was inactive after suffering a concussion in Barnum’s opening-round win over Walker-Hackensack-Ackley. Monday, Peterson was informed he couldn’t play.
“It’s rough, but things happen, that’s just the way it is,” said a teary-eyed Peterson, who has played football for Barnum since seventh grade and wore his No. 36 jersey over a sweatshirt Thursday. “It’s the only sport I play. They’re pretty much my brothers out there. I treat them like family.”
Familiar foes in Class A, No. 4 Braham and No. 8 Barnum — which previously played to a 28-6 Braham win on Oct. 4 — battled again Thursday, swapping several leads.
Unblemished Braham (11-0) — posing a lethal shotgun spread offense — led first when Larson lofted a touchdown pass to Tristan Marthaler. Barnum bounced back quickly when Zac Carlson sprinted for a 28-yard score, followed by Brandon Newman’s 4-yard plunge to take a 14-6 advantage.
That mark held at halftime before Braham scored; and Carlson, a running back, later caught a 63-yard heave via Newman’s right arm. Up 20-12 in the final frame, Barnum watched Larson find Zach Dahlman from 48 yards out and then whip it to a wide-open Overton for the state-clincher.
“We have to trust John, he’s done that for us all season long,” said Braham Coach Shawn Kuhnke of his standout sophomore quarterback, who threw for 247 yards and all four of his team’s TDs through the air Thursday. “He’s a competitor with true grit. He does anything it takes to win.”
“It feels good,” said Larson, holding the championship plaque in his arms. “I’ve had some unbelievable games, but this is the best feeling that I have ever had.”
That feeling isn’t the same for Barnum, which finished 9-2 this season, with their two losses both coming to Braham, which bears the same “Bombers” mascot.
“This kind of sucks, but it will pass,” said Peterson. “We’ll still have good memories — and all the good times.”
“We left it all on the field,” added Barnum Coach Brian Robertson outside the locker room. “We just ran out of gas.”
Rebels roll over Mesabi East
The Rebels didn’t need any Halloween tricks in a 56-point plowing of Mesabi East in the Section 7AA final.
Moose Lake-Willow River (10-0), ranked second in Class AA, led 48-zip at halftime in a game that went to fourth-quarter running time en route to the Rebels’ eighth consecutive section title.
Backfield mates John Evenson and Josh Pettersen each had two touchdown runs for ML-WR. Six different Rebels found the endzone, earning ML-WR another state tournament berth.
Tournament play begins Friday, Nov. 8, when the Rebels face Paynesville or Minneota at a7 p.m. at Chisago Lakes High School.
“For these kids, now it’s time to turn it up,” said ML-WR Coach Dave Louzek, who hopes to lead his team to a fourth Prep Bowl in five seasons, “and get focused for the state tournament — and hopefully a state championship.”
“This never gets old,” said Evenson, who rushed for 90 yards to pace his team’s 423. “We want to go all the way.”
MOOSE LAKE-WILLOW RIVER 62, MESABI EAST 6
Mesabi East 0–0–0–6—6
Esko falls to Proctor in tough 7AAA championship
Proctor running back Joe Carter unofficially set a new school record with 282 yards rushing on 28 carries and four touchdowns to lead the Rails to a 37-21 victory over Esko in the Section 7AAA championship game.
Carter scored on runs of 21, 34 and 9 yards in a 21-point second quarter and then sealed the Rails’ first section title in five years with a 46-yard scoring burst in the fourth.
Proctor (8-2), which lost 28-26 to Esko a year ago in the section final, advances to its seventh state tournament. The Rails will play either St. Cloud Cathedral or Pierz in a Class AAA quarterfinal at 7 p.m. next Friday at Malosky.
Proctor survived an aerial assault from Esko senior quarterback Marc Peterson, who completed 30 of 45 passes for 331 yards and three touchdowns despite a shoulder injury suffered a couple of weeks ago.
But it wasn’t enough to offset Carter’s night. He broke the former record of 274 yards, set by Jordy Carlson in 2009.
“We figured that Esko would put a lot of guys in the box and it would be feast or famine,” Rails coach Derek Parendo said. “If we blocked it up and got behind the line, they had nobody behind and we would go for big chunks of yardage.”
Carter’s first score came after Frank Napoli intercepted Peterson at the goal line and returned it 44 yards. After a three-and-out possession and a fine punt return by Napoli, Carter needed only two carries to spring for another touchdown. His 36-yard run on the next drive set up his third TD in a 3-minute, 17-second span.
“They popped some on us — that trap worked pretty well against us,” Esko coach Bill Hudspith said.
The Eskomos (7-4) rallied from an 18-point deficit to cut the gap to 24-21 as Peterson teamed with Aaron Olson on a pair of scoring passes in a 62-second span of the third quarter. When the defense forced a Proctor punt, Esko was in good shape at the Rails’ 34 before Shane Gould intercepted Peterson.
Esko forced Proctor into another fourth-down situation, but quarterback Brodie Nordquist surprised the defense by finding Nate Layne all alone with a 34-yard pass to the foot line.
“The play wasn’t designed to go to him, but he was standing there all alone so I took the chance,” Nordquist said. “I floated the ball, but the receiver made the play. That was probably the turning point of the game.”
Nordquist, who was close to 100 yards rushing, then sneaked over for a 30-21 lead.
“We don’t pile up the stats like Esko and throw the ball a bunch, but we make them count,” Parendo said.
Esko failed to convert another fourth down and Carter broke through another wide running lane to clinch the outcome.