AURORA—Until someone knocks them off that mantle, the Mountain Iron-Buhl High School football team is the King of Section 7 Nine-man football.
The Rangers had won four straight Section titles, which kept them at the top of that pedestal.
Cherry was set to knock Mountain Iron-Buhl back down to earth, but the Rangers are still the king of the section.
Asher Zubich accounted for 48 points as Mountain Iron-Buhl made it five-straight Section 7 Nine-man titles with a 56-24 victory over the Tigers Friday at the Mesabi East Sports Complex.
Mountain Iron-Buhl coach Dan Zubich left it up to his upperclassmen, and they got the job done, especially his son, and Damian Tapio, who dominated with their ground game.
“I have 10 seniors, so I said, ‘You guys have won the section every year. You don’t want to end it with a loss in your final game,’” Zubich said. “They did a great job. Sometimes we bring our receivers in, but they were sending so many guys, we had to ride those two up the middle.
“We had worked on it all week with the down blocks. They send so many blitzes, so we sent our guys at them all week saying, ‘Here they come. This is where they’re coming from. This is what we’re going to do.’”
It was Cherry that got the game going in the right direction.
After recovering a Mountain Iron-Buhl fumble, Noah Asuma sprinted in from 62 yards out to give the Tigers a 6-0 lead.
“I was wondering where the heck our two guys were out there,” Zubich said. “I didn’t see anybody even touch him. I was a little worried because we had fumbled, and they scored.
“We got going after that.”
Getting that early touchdown is what Cherry coach Jason Marsh wanted to see.
“Early on things went according to our game plan,” Marsh said. “We were feeling good. Defensively, things kind of went the way we wanted them to. We made far too many mental mistakes.
“We had some big breakdowns at inopportune times. We had far too many penalties. There were some guys on our side that were getting pushed around. That’s tough to come back from.”
Asher Zubich got the game tied 6-6 when he scored on a seven-yard run, and that’s when the Rangers took over.
Zubich scored from four yards out to make it 14-6, then on the ensuing kickoff, theTigers fumbled.
Mountain Iron-Buhl recovered the ball on the Cherry 10, and it only took one play and nine seconds to make it 20-6.
Zubich hit Braylen Keith with a 10-yard scoring strike, then on the Rangers next possession, it took five plays to go 89 yards, with Zubich connecting with Keith again, this time from 31 yards out to make it 26-6.
Mountain Iron-Buhl scored three times within five minutes to put the Tigers in a hole.
“Football is a huge game of momentum,” Marsh said. “That was a key turning point. Against good teams, you have to limit your mistakes. It is what it is, but the kids kept battling back
“We couldn’t get it done tonight.”
Mountain Iron-Buhl wasn’t done.
Tapio would intercept a pass at the Rangers’ 42, then three plays later, Tapio ran one in from seven yards out to make it 34-6 at the half.
Even with a 28-point lead, Dan Zubich didn’t think the game was over.
“It may have been 34-6 at halftime, but it was, ‘Hey, Sundquist is hard to bring down. They’ve got good receivers, so anything could happen,’” Dan Zubich said. “The kids were already talking about it at halftime before we got over there. They were ready. They knew it wasn’t over. That was a good thing.”
Cherry had a big hill to climb, but all the Tigers could do in the second half was trade touchdowns.
“The hard part when you get to that point is you’re chasing points,” Marsh said. “We’ve improved a great deal with our passing game, but we like to mix it up. The run was working well for us early.
“When you have to make big adjustments like that, where you’re trying to chase points at halftime, it shortens the playbook.”
The Tigers were able to score first in the third quarter on a six-yard touchdown toss from Noah Sundquist to Isaac Asuma, but Zubich came back with a five-yard scoring run.
In the fourth quarter, Sundquist scored on a seven-yard run, but Mountain Iron-Buhl got a 56-yard scoring pass from Zubich to Keith, which was their third scoring connection of the game.
Sundquist would scramble in from 26 yards out during the middle of the fourth quarter, but Zubich ran in his third scoring run, this time from 27 yards out to end the scoring.
Cherry couldn’t stop Zubich and Tapio.
“We got pushed around pretty good,” Marsh said. “They’re two good athletes. We are a physical team and we came up with some big hits, but it takes all nine guys being physical, not three or four.”
CHS 6 0 6 12—24
MIB 6 28 8 14—56
C—Noah Asuma 62 run (run failed)
MIB—Asher Zubich 7 run (run failed)
MIB—Zubich 4 run (Zubich run)
MIB—Braylen Keith 10 pass from Zubich (run failed)
MIB—Keith 31 pass from Zubich (run failed)
MIB—Damon Tapio 7 run (Zubich pass to Keith)
C—Isaac Asuma 6 pass from Noah Sundquist (run failed)
MIB—Zubich 5 run (Zubich run)
C—Sundquist 7 run (run failed)
MIB—Keith 56 pass from Zubich (Zubich pass to Riley Busch)
C—Sundquist 26 run (pass failed)
MIB—Zubich 27 run (pass failed)