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Tough Cardinals team steamrolling competition

Football in most communities where Minnesota's nine-man game is played can be feast-or-famine in terms of participation. That's true in Cromwell, where teams large and small have taken to the field in recent years. This year's iteration has 33 pl...

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Three Cromwell players combine to sack South Ridge quarterback Nick Carlson during Friday night's 9-man football game. Dave Harwig/news@pinejournal.com
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Football in most communities where Minnesota’s nine-man game is played can be feast-or-famine in terms of participation.

That’s true in Cromwell, where teams large and small have taken to the field in recent years. This year’s iteration has 33 players - the school’s largest team in terms of numbers since 2007 - and the results are there for all to see.

Friday night in Cromwell, the Cardinals overwhelmed South Ridge 48-8 in a District 9 White game, taking a 48-0 lead before the Panthers got onto the scoreboard.

Dillon Hoff, one of 13 Cromwell seniors, scored three touchdowns including a 75-yard kick return, as Cromwell was never threatened. Five different players rushed for at least 60 yards.

The Cardinals started slowly, playing a scoreless first quarter before scoring 20 points in the second.

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“Penalties,” Cromwell coach Jeff Gronner explained. “It seemed like we were starting 1st-and-20 all the time and they (South Ridge) were doing just enough to keep the chains moving.”

In the second, though, the defense forced three interceptions leading to three short fields, and then to short touchdowns by Eli Warpula (1 yard), Cameron Cahoon (17 yards) and Hoff (14 yards) for a 20-0 lead at the break.

Hoff then returned the second-half kickoff 75 yards for a touchdown and the rout was on. Sam Kemper hauled in a 14-yard scoring pass from quarterback Zion Smith and Hoff connected on a 35-yard scoring run for a 40-0 lead after three quarters.

With the backups in the game in the fourth quarter, Kannon Korpela scored on a four-yard run for a 48-0 advantage before Keyton Westgard scored on a 50-yard run for the Panthers’ touchdown.

Gronner credited the defense with helping settle the team down.

“Those turnovers were big,” he said. “Once we got the first couple of scores, the line started controlling the line of scrimmage.”

From there, Cromwell was able to rely on its stable of seniors.

“We have the luxury of a lot of seniors and a very talented sophomore class, so we have depth,” Gronner said. Along with the 13 seniors on the team, there are also 13 sophomores, so 26 of the team’s 33 players are in those two grades.

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“It’s good that we have sophomores who can press the seniors in practice,” Gronner said. “We don’t always have that luxury and we have five starting offensive linemen back from last year, with three of them three-year starters. This is about as good as I’ve had it here, with at least two guys who are capable varsity players at every spot.”

Gronner had praise for South Ridge as a capable opponent despite the score.

“We thought they were the best team on our schedule,” he said. “South Ridge beat Floodwood, who is our next opponent, but by scores of games we really haven’t been tested yet.”

The numbers bear him out. Cromwell has outscored its four opponents 195-50, with first-game opponent Isle coming closest to the Cardinals in a 41-12 Cromwell triumph.

Floodwood (3-1), winless Carlton, McGregor (2-2) and winless Onamia are Cromwell’s four remaining regular season opponents.

“Hopefully we get that challenge,” Gronner said. “But it might be a while until it happens. The sky is the limit for this team but we have to work hard at it every day in practice.”

Related Topics: CROMWELL
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