Cromwell-Wright Area needed a late touchdown pass from quarterback Jaeger Goranson, but the Cardinals rallied for a 15-14 home victory over Carlton-Wrenshall in both teams’ season opener Friday, Oct. 9.

The Cardinals fumbled around midfield late in the fourth quarter, giving the Raptors life late in the game. Carlton-Wrenshall took advantage of the turnover with Kyle Siiter running for a 30-yard touchdown with about two minutes remaining in the game.

Goranson led the Cardinals 70 yards down the field — aided by a roughing the passer penalty against the Raptors — and found Travis Young in the end zone on third and goal from about 12 yards out.

Kicker Dany Butera booted the extra point through the uprights to give Cromwell-Wright a one point lead with 20 seconds remaining.

Cromwell-Wright Coach Jeff Gronner was happy with the way his team responded against the Raptors’ bigger linemen.

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“We were undersized, Carlton-Wrenshall has some big boys,” Gronner said. “They fought and battled all game up front, on both sides of the ball. Then we got down late, but we didn’t hang our heads. We came back and made some big runs.”

Zevvus Smith (60) of Cromwell-Wright pushes off of (7) and  Mason Perry (84) both of Carlton-Wrenshall while rushing the ball during Friday's game in Cromwell.  (Clint Austin/caustin@duluthnews.com)
Zevvus Smith (60) of Cromwell-Wright pushes off of (7) and Mason Perry (84) both of Carlton-Wrenshall while rushing the ball during Friday's game in Cromwell. (Clint Austin/caustin@duluthnews.com)

Gronner was also happy with the play of running back and linebacker Zevvus Smith. Smith ran for the Cardinals’ first touchdown and recorded 19 tackles and two interceptions in the game.

While the offense sputtered through large portions of the game, Gronner is still installing a new offense and was pleased with his team’s performance.

“Overall, I was happy,” Gronner said. “Obviously, I’d like to score a little more than twice, but, like I said they have a tough, tough defensive line. Our defense overall played well, and Zevvus was outstanding at linebacker ... It was a good first game against a very solid team. Win or lose, it was a good effort by our guys.”

Carlton-Wrenshall Coach Jeremy Zywicki had hoped for a better performance from his team in its season debut.

“I thought we were very timid, I thought we played lethargic and we were passive,” Zywicki said. “We didn’t come out of the gate strong at all and it took us almost all the way to the fourth quarter before the kids started to realize the game was on the line. I was not real happy with our performance.”

Zywicki was impressed, though, with Siiter’s performance at running back and with Kristian Herman’s play on the offensive line. He was also “pleasantly surprised” with the play of freshman quarterback Sam Ojibway, who tossed a 28-yard touchdown pass to Zeke Rousseau in the second quarter.

“I thought he definitely played very well,” Zywicki said. “He threw a couple interceptions — one late in the second half — but he just tried to make a play there at the end. But overall, he did what I asked him to do. He managed the game, and he definitely made some big throws ... I was definitely very happy with Sam and his performance.”

Cromwell-Wright (1-0) is next scheduled to play at McGregor at 3 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15. Carlton-Wrenshall (0-1) will host Isle at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15.

Carlton-Wrenshall 0-6-0-8—14

Cromwell-Wright Area 8-0-0-7—15

CWA — Zevvus Smith 3 run (Travis Young pass from Jaeger Goranson)

CW — Zeke Rosseau 28 pass from Sam Ojibway (run failed)

CW — Kyle Siiter 30 run (Mason Perry pass from Ojibway)

CWA — Young 12 pass from Goranson (Dany Butera kick)