Undefeated Wrens beat Bears in a nail-biter

WRENSHALL--At Knutson Athletic Field, the white and orange painted Wrenshall football press box is dated, the scoreboard is missing light bulbs -- and the public address system nearly broke last week.

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Wrenshall quarterback Luke Vine (13) prepares to hand off to Dakota Spry (32) during Friday night's nail-biter against the Floodwood Polar Bears. The Wrenshall Wrens were able to hold on for a 41-40 win. Dan Saletel/Pine Journal

WRENSHALL-At Knutson Athletic Field, the white and orange painted Wrenshall football press box is dated, the scoreboard is missing light bulbs - and the public address system nearly broke last week.

That's because Wrenshall’s game announcer screamed in excitement, while ecstatic fans roared when the Wrens escaped 10th-ranked Floodwood with a thrilling 41-40 overtime victory in a Great Northern Conference 9-man game last Friday night in Wrenshall.

Wrenshall senior quarterback Luke Vine hit classmate Chase Moreneau on a 5-yard touchdown toss and Vine's extra point made it 41-34 in the extra session. Then the Polar Bears' Tanner Heggedahl responded with a 2-yard scoring plunge but Morneau tackled Willow Christenson on the right sideline to stop the potentially game-winning two-point conversion as the stands erupted.

Once up 34-12 entering the fourth quarter, a seemingly sure Wrenshall victory turned into a tailspin when Floodwood scored 22 unanswered points after a pivotal turnover. It ended with a late Wrens celebration with players jumping jubilantly.

"It shouldn't be 41-40 right now," said Wrenshall Coach Jeremy Zywicki afterward. "We really had to dig deep on this one, but we should have put this game away."


Putting games away had been a simple task for the Wrens (3-0) up until last week. A program which didn't have enough players to field varsity teams in 2009 and 2010 has surged to a rare unbeaten record this season, outscoring their opponents 138-51 along the way.

That's mainly due to a gutsy group of 17 players - nine of whom are seniors - which has plenty of options offensively, including Vine under center, along with a trio of running backs in seniors Caleb O'Conner and Hunter Pauly and junior Dakota Spry.

Last week, Spry ran for 164 yards on 25 carries and scored once, while Pauly produced 136 yards on 19 attempts, including three TDs. Both, including O'Conner, caught all three of Vine's touchdown tosses, as the right-hander finished with 108 passing yards and had plenty of praise for his talented runners.

"It's a wonderful feeling to know that everyone in your backfield can run for a touchdown at the snap of your fingers," Vine said. "And when the run isn't working, it's nice to be able to pass."

"I'll tell you what, Jeremy's got a heck of a team this year," said Floodwood Coach Larry Heggedahl.

Heggedahl, who returns a majority of his squad that won the Section 5 title and advanced to their school's first-ever state tournament last year, said his Polar Bears (2-1) turned over the ball too many times, but he was pleased with their valiant march back.

"I think everybody got their money's worth tonight," said Heggedahl, whose team was led by the athletic Christenson, who had 187 yards receiving and pair of touchdowns. "And we could very well be meeting them again."

If that were the case, it could be late in the postseason, but right now, it's still mid-September.


"It's way too early to tell," Zywicki said of his team's future. "We're three games in. We're 3-0. But we're just taking it one game at a time."

"We're feeling great," Morneau said outside the locker room.

"This was a big win for us," added Spry. "That's the loudest I've heard Wrenshall ever."

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