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Small team, big results for Cardinals

Cromwell-Wright's Cameron Cahoon carries the ball past Isle's Brad Bernu on Friday, Oct. 5. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal1 / 3
Cromwell-Wright's Isaac Shelton catches a pass for a two-point conversion in front of Isle's Konner Krawiecki. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal2 / 3
Cromwell-Wright's Drew Libbon makes a play on Isle's Darin Brandt during the Friday, Oct. 5, nine-man game. Dave Harwig / Pine Journal3 / 3

Despite having four state titles and four more state runner-up trophies to their name, Nine-Man powerhouse Cromwell-Wright has just 17 players out for football this fall.

"We're hoping and praying we stay healthy," said Jeff Gronner of his lowest turnout with the Cardinals in his 21st season, 15th as head coach. "We don't have a lot of depth."

What they do have, however, are kids who can score.

That was — again — apparent Oct. 5 when the fourth-ranked Cardinals cruised past visiting Isle 60-8, marking the third time Cromwell-Wright has tallied 60 or more this fall. In fact, with a low game of 44 points and high of 77, their eighth touchdowns last week was about average.

"We just run our plays as hard as we can," said senior Cameron Cahoon, who scored on runs of 4, 59 and 9 yards in a game the Cardinals led 38-0 at halftime on the drizzly evening.

Speaking of halftime, that's when the 1998 Cromwell-Wright state championship team was honored, as several members of those past Cardinals were introduced at midfield. It was a special moment for Gronner, again getting to see that title squad and first-ever Cromwell-Wright group he coached.

"There was a couple I hadn't seen in a long time," said Gronner, noting the Cardinals also have state crowns in 1995, 1996, 2010 and were second in 1992, 1997, 2000 and 2005.

Thus, football is tradition-laden in this small community. Members of the single four-way stop town talk about, reminisce and come out to all of the games, home or away.

"Cromwell has always been very passionate about football," said senior Kannon Korpela, who had 44- and 65-yard TDs. "We all have a huge passion. It's what we enjoy. Family, parents, it's something everyone looks forward to."

Such was the scene last week, as despite the damp weather, plenty of red and white was in attendance to watch the Cardinals (6-0) keep their record unblemished as they seek a return to their fourth state tournament in the past five years.

In fact, in 2016, Cromwell-Wright played the first-ever prep game at the Minnesota Vikings' U.S. Bank Stadium. Both Korpela and Cahoon were starters on that team and they, and the rest of their seven seniors, want to make their encore.

"It was one of the most fun times I have ever had," Korpela said. "To do it again would just mean so much."

"They've been pretty hungry to get back," added Gronner, who's son, Jaden, is also a senior lineman. "That's their goal."

Even if they don't get many water breaks along the way.

"We just take our breathers between plays," said senior quarterback Drew Libbon. "And then focus on our jobs."

Cromwell-Wright 16-22-14-8—60

Isle 0-0-0-8—8

CW — Isaac Shelton 25 pass from Drew Libbon (Kannon Korpela pass from Libbon)

CW — Korpela 44 run (Shelton pass from Libbon)

CW — Libbon 41 run (Libbon run)

CW — Cameron Cahoon 4 run (pass fail)

CW — Cahoon 59 run (Cahoon pass from Libbon)

CW — Cahoon 9 run (Shelton kick)

CW — Korpela 65 run (Shelton kick)

I — John Kargel 16 pass from Teagen Haggberg (Haggberg run)

CW — James Besch 6 run (Besch run)