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9-man teams rise and fall in playoffs

Cromwell-Wright's Nic Johnson runs away from Wrenshall senior Brennan Kelley during Wednesday night's regular-season football finale. The Cardinals upended the Wrens 39-8, securing the No. 1 seed for Cromwell-Wright. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal1 / 2
Wrenshall junior Jared Kelley is tackled by Cromwell-Wright junior Cameron Cahoon (32) and Nic Johnson (6) during Wednesday night's 39-8 Cardinal win. Dave Harwig/Pine Journal2 / 2

Carlton County teams were in action Tuesday night as the first round of high school football playoffs took place across the Northland.

In nine-man play, Cromwell-Wright stayed unbeaten with a 58-16 thrashing of Hill City-Northland in Cromwell. The Cardinals led 36-0 at half and 58-0 after three quarters before the Hornets scored twice in running time in the fourth quarter.

Nic Johnson scored three times including runs of 65, 16 and 33 yards as the Cardinals won easily. Drew Libbon scored from 25 yards out in the first half, the first of two scores for him on the night, and Cameron Cahoon tallied from 24 yards, also in the first half.

Tanner Vero and A.J. House also scored for Cromwell-Wright.

The Cardinals will host South Ridge (6-3) on Saturday at 7 p.m.

Joe Janke had a huge day for the South Ridge Panthers Tuesday, rushing 27 times for 203 yards and four scores, to lead his team to a 44-14 win over McGregor in Culver.

After Janke's first touchdown, from one yard, the Mercuries briefly tied the game on a four-yard run by Drew Dean. But the next time the visitors scored, it was 44-6 thanks in part to Janke's excellence

He also scored on runs of 4, 16 and 14 yards as part of a ground game that churned out 377 yards of offense.

Logan Young (55 yards) and Robert Zimmerman (30 yards) scored the other touchdowns for South Ridge.

The second-seeded nine-man team is Wrenshall (7-2), which powered past Carlton (3-6) by a 57-14 score on Tuesday, thanks to 291 yards and five touchdowns from Tyler Kelley.

Kelley averaged 14.6 yards per carry, accomplishing his feat on only 20 carries. His brother, Jared, added 192 yards and another touchdown on 18 carries, averaging 10.6 yards per carry.

Wrenshall led 34-6 at the intermission, with Tyler Kelley scoring on runs of 63, 26, 41, 21 and 6 yards. Jared Kelley scored on an 84-yard run in the fourth quarter.

Carlton got two touchdowns from Matt Santkuyl on runs of 69 and 9 yards in the first and fourth quarters, respectively. Christian O'Connor closed out the scoring with a 41-yard burst for the Wrens, who play Floodwood (6-3) in Saturday's semifinals at 2 p.m.

As good as the Wrens have been, even they didn't have an answer for Cromwell-Wright in last Wednesday's season finale. The Cardinals defeated Wrenshall 39-8 in Wrenshall to win their 21st consecutive regular season game.

Randy Wimmer gave Wrenshall a short-lived 6-0 lead in the first quarter before Drew Libbon scored the first of two touchdowns, which helped Cromwell-Wright build a 24-8 lead after three periods.

Nic Johnson's 42-yard run gave Cromwell-Wright the 24-8 advantage before fourth-quarter scores by Johnson (34 yards) and Cameron Cahoon (3 yards) closed out the night's scoring.