MOUNTAIN IRON — The No. 2-seeded Tigers hadn’t seen the football field for two weeks since going to full distance learning two weeks ago Wednesday.
Any rust Cherry may have had was hard to notice in a 54-20 victory over No. 7 Northeast Range Tuesday night in the quarterfinal round of the Section 7 9-Man playoffs.
“We obviously have some things to clean up, but that’s what two weeks off of football will do to you. I was pleased, especially in the first half, on both sides of the ball offensively and defensively. I thought we were a little sharper, maybe, than I was expecting after no practice for two weeks,’’ head coach Jason Marsh said after the game.
The Tigers used an impressive running game all night long and got things going on their first possession with a 55-yard drive highlighted by Cole Harrington’s 10-yard up-the-gut scoring run to make it 8-0.
After forcing a Northeast Range punt, Harrington, Mason Perkovich, Beau Barry , Nick Peterson and Kaleb Rinerson all went to work on a 64-yard drive. Barry also threw in a 23yard pass to Zach Carpenter along the way.
In the end, it was Perkovich who found the end zone from 5 yards out to give Cherry a 16-0 lead with 4:13 left in the first.
Having everyone pitch in is exactly how Marsh likes to see his team operate.
“That’s just kind of our style of football. It’s not trying to rely on one player. Injuries happen and kids have good nights and bad nights and we’ve never really been a team of superstars. We expect everybody to do their job and pitch in. We try to spread the ball around. It’s a good night for us when we’ve got four ball carriers contributing to the offense.’’
The Tigers continued to build their first quarter lead after advancing to the Nighthawks’ 20 yard line. On the next play, a fumble by Cherry turned into a touchdown when pounced on the football, which had made its way into the end zone. The result was a 24-0 Cherry lead after the first 12 minutes of play.
The Tigers made it 32-0 at 4:26 of the second quarter when Perkovich slipped through the defense from six yards out.
The Nighthawks then put together a 54-yard scoring drive of their own, using both the pass and the run.
Bralyn Lislegard ripped off a 24-yard run to get things started before quarterback Oskar Koivisto found Dillon Gorsma with a four-yard pass, which put the ball at the Cherry 18. A pair of Lislegard runs had the ball to the 10, where Northeast Range had a fourth down and five. The Nighthawks got the first down and six points on the very next play when Koivisto tossed a 10-yard strike to Landyn Houghton with just 47.8 seconds left in the half.
Cherry (4-1)didn’t waste any time adding to its 32-6 lead as time was winding down. Peterson and Barry broke off big runs and the ball was at the two-yard line. Harrington hit pay dirt on the next play and the Tigers were up 40-6 at intermission.
Cherry added two more second half touchdowns (one each from Peterson and Barry), but the Nighthawks weren’t about to give up.
Lislegard capped his strong night with a running and a receiving touchdown in the final half, which led to the 54-20 final.
What do the Tigers need to do before Saturday’s game?
“We gotta get some practice’’ and shake the rust off because some reads and some blocks were missed, said Marsh.
The coach is hoping is team can continue playing after hearing Gov. Tim Walz is considering “pausing’’ high school sports. Walz is expected to make his intentions known on Wednesday.
Marsh and his coaching staff passed along what they knew to the players Tuesday and urged them to leave it all out on the field because it could possibly be their final game.
“That’s what we told them. This season they’ve had to battle all the things that they can’t control. We very much preach to control the things you can control.’’
The Tigers have had to deal with not having their field ready; the season getting postponed to spring and then restarted again; no games or practice for two weeks when distance learning was implemented; and now the possibility of losing the final days of the season.
“Right at the end, it might be taken away from the kids again. So we told the seniors, especially, this may be the end. How do you want to go out. How do you want to be remembered. This is really the year — more than any other year — where you take it a game and a day at a time. For the most part the kids have been doing a good job of that.’’
NE Range 0 6 8 6 — 20
Cherry 24 16 8 6 — 54
C: Cole Harrington 10 run (Nick Peterson run)
C: Mason Perkovich 5 run (Beau Barry run)
C: Barry fumble recovery in end zone (Perkovich run)
C: Perkovich 6 run (Peterson run)
NER: Landyn Houghton 10 pass from Oskar Koivisto (pass failed)
C: Harrington 2 run (Harrington run)
C: Peterson 2 run (Peterson run)
NER: Bralyn Lislegard 1 run (Dillon Gorsma pass from Koivisto)
NER: Lislegard 11 pass from Koivisto (pass failed)
C: Barry 36 run (run failed)
No. 4 Bigfork 52,
No. 5 Ely 6
At Grand Rapids, the No. 4-seeded Huskies scored seven times on the ground and rushed for at least 240 yards en route to a 52-6 victory over No. 5 Ely in the quarterfinal round of the Section 7 9-Man playoffs.
Jackson Lovdahl led the way as he ran for more than 115 yards with three touchdown runs of 55, 30 and 35 yards. Mankin Wilde added TD runs of 30 and 3 yards, while Caden Kallinen and Joe Schultz also found the end zone.
Ely got its lone touchdown on a three-yard Lane Anderson scoring run.
“We just physically couldn’t match them up front,’’ said Ely head coach Cory Lassi. The coach and his players were just happy they had an “opportunity to play with everything else that’s going on.’’
The Timberwolves ended the season with a 3-3 record.
Ely 0 0 0 6 — 6
Bigfork 14 24 14 0 — 52
BF: Jackson Lovdahl 55 run (Caden Kallinen run)
BF: Joe Schultz 30 run (run failed)
BF: Lovdahl 30 run (Schultz run)
BF: Kallinen 55 run (Troy Myers from Kallinen)
BF: Lovdahl 35 run (Kallinen run)
BF: Mankin Wilde 30 run (Kallinen run)
BF: Wilde 3 run (run failed)
Ely: Lane Anderson 3 run (run failed)
Deer River 3,
At Eveleth, the Golden Bears went toe to toe with Deer River Tuesday night, but they ultimately fell just short in a 3-1 (15-25, 25-19, 22-25, 22-25) loss to the visiting Warriors.
Eveleth-Gilbert was paced by Lauren Lautigar with 15 set assists and Joey Westby, who dug up 10 volleyballs. In the kills department, Emily Kemp netted 10, Afton Roberts had eight and Brooke Thyen put down seven.
The Golden Bears play at International Falls Thursday.
Northeast Range 3,
At Babbitt, another big night from Hannah Reichensperger Tuesday led Northeast Range past Nashwauk-Keewatin, 3-1 (25-12, 26-24, 22-25, 25-22).
Reichensperger led the Nighthawks with 30 kills, 17 digs and two blocks, while Maizy Sundblad racked up 41 set assists. Danica Sundblad also added 12 digs, Natalie Nelmark chipped in with 11 kills and Audrey Anderson added 12 digs and five kills.
The Spartans were paced by Madi Owens with 5 kills and 3 set assists; Jazlyn Svaleson 9 kills and three ace serves; Sam Woodman with six kills, one block and two ace serves; Johnnie Waldvogel with five kills, one block and one ace serve; and Misty Bozich with 20 set assists and one ace serve.