COOK — The North Woods football team came into Thursday afternoon’s game against reigning section champion Deer River expecting a tough battle between two hard-nosed teams.
In the end, the Grizzlies’ ground game, carried by TJ and Jared Chiabotti, got the best of the Warriors as North Woods (1-1) earned their first win of the season 48-36 over Deer River.
The Chiabottis combined for six of North Woods’ seven touchdowns on the day and finished with well over 100 yards apiece in rushing. Dominant offensively in the beginning, the Grizzlies didn’t see a third or fourth down until the final drive of the first half.
North Woods’ first drive was just three plays long as Jared Chiabotti got the scoring started quickly. On second and 10 from the Deer River 45, Chiabotti found a clear hole and took the ball to the house to give the Grizzlies the early lead, less than five minutes into the first quarter.
The next Deer River possession saw the Warriors start at their own 41. As opposed to the big gains the Grizzlies saw, the Warriors opted to chip away at the yardage thanks to the running prowess of Austin Rasley, backed up by Tygh Gullickson.
Deer River found themselves 15 yards from the end zone to start the second quarter when Warriors’ quarterback Blake Fox handed the ball off to Sam Rahier, who ran it in for the score. After the failed two-point conversion, the score stood at 6-6 with the Grizzlies ready to start their second possession.
Their next possession was just as quick and efficient as the first. After a 13-yard run by TJ Chiabotti to start the drive, Chiabotti took the handoff from Fabish and broke free for a 46-yard touchdown run to rival his brother’s.
The Grizzlies continually opted for a squib kick on their own kickoffs and it paid off for them on the ensuing kickoff. Kicker Jake Pinichi kicked the ball just over 15 yards and the Grizzlies were ready to pounce, recovering the ball at the Deer River 42, putting them back on offense.
Jared Chiabotti started the drive with a short two-yard run before TJ Chiabotti broke away for another huge rush, this time for 34 yards to give North Woods first and goal at the six. Following an incomplete pass, Fabish handed it off to TJ Chiabotti on second down and he punched it in for the score. Zach Cheney ran in the two-point conversion and North Woods led 20-6 less than two minutes into the second quarter.
Another Grizzlies squib kick gave the Warriors great position as they started the ensuing drive on their own 46. Rasley now sidelined with an injury, the bulk of the Warriors carries fell to Gullickson and Rahier. After a few short runs from them, Deer River faced a third and five from the Grizzlies 49. Quarterback Fox chose to air it out for the first big pass of the game and connected with Ty Morrison for the 49-yard score, making it 20-14 after the two-point conversion.
North Woods, again, wasted no time on offense. Starting from their own 39-yard line, TJ Chiabotti needed just one handoff to score, running in another touchdown, this time from 61 yards out to make it 28-14 after Fabish connected with Cheney for the two-point conversion.
North Woods finally kicked it deep on the ensuing kickoff and the Warriors started their next drive on their own 27. On the first play of the drive, Grizzlies defensive end Cole Thiel caught the corner and sacked Fox for a nine-yard loss, pinning Deer River further back in their own end. A few plays later, the Warriors punted the ball away, giving the potent Grizzlies offense another chance to score with 5:15 to play in the half.
Starting from their own 47, the Grizzlies needed just three plays this time to score. On third and 10, Jared Chiabotti took the handoff and ran it home from 53 yards out for his second touchdown of the afternoon. Fabish again connected with Cheney on the two-point conversion and the Grizzlies took a 36-14 lead into halftime.
The third quarter was the most precarious for North Woods. Their opening drive resulted in just their second punt of the contest so far. The ensuing Warriors drive began on the North Woods 44 as Gullickson and Rahier continued to drive for Deer River. On second and goal Gullickson punched it in from five yards to make it 36-22 after the conversion.
The next Grizzlies drive went worse than the last. Penalties drove North Woods back and TJ Chiabotti was getting up off the ground a little slower than normal. On third and 13, Chiabotti fumbled the ball away with Gullickson recovering it for the Warriors.
Deer River took over on the North Woods 25 and continued to chip away with short yardage running plays. On third down, Fox hit CJ Bellefy for the four-yard pass for the score. Rhett Mundt caught the two-point pass and it was 36-30 North Woods.
North Woods fumbled the ball away again on the ensuing drive, but were able to come up with a stop to end the quarter to turn Deer River over on downs.
The Grizzlies, however, found their form once again in the fourth. TJ Chiabotti was back to picking up big yards on the run and Pinichi aided the ground game with a few carries of his own.
Taking over eight minutes off the clock on their first drive of the fourth, the drive ended with another Grizzlies score, this time on a 12-yard touchdown pass from Fabish to Olin Nelson to make it 42-30.
The Grizzlies continued to find success on defense as Cheney intercepted Fox early on the next drive, handing the Grizzlies the ball at the Deer River 33.
A short four-yard run from TJ Chiabotti and an impressive 17-yard rush from Pinichi put the Grizzlies at the Deer River 12. That was close enough for TJ Chiabotti as he ran in his final touchdown of the game to put his team up 48-30 with 1:55 to play.
The Warriors managed one final score to make it 48-36. The Grizzlies were unable to run the clock down on their final drive, but an interception by Jared Chiabotti on the final play of the game ended the contest at 48-36 in favor of the Grizzlies.
His first win as the Grizzlies head coach, Joel Anderson had to give the credit to his team for executing their game plan for three of the four quarters.
“We came in with a plan and I thought we executed it very well aside from the third quarter,” Anderson said. “We knew we were going to have a tough time here against a team like Deer River and it was great to get that win. Hopefully we can clean some of our stuff up here and move on to the next one.”
Excelling on the ground against the Warriors, Anderson says his offensive line deserves just as much praise as the Chiabottis running the ball.
“Our line played a really, really good game. They blocked well and knew their assignments. Deer River made some adjustments in the third quarter but we figured it out and, in the end, TJ and Jared are going to do what TJ and Jared do. The line gave them the holes to run through and it was a heck of a game all-around.”
Finding a way to win at home in front of their own crowd, Anderson says his team may just start realizing how strong they can be on the field.
“With everything that’s going on right now, the football still hasn’t changed. So when we get an opportunity to play at home and pick up a win, it’s just a great feeling and I’m excited for these guys. I think they’re starting to figure out that they’re a heck of a football team.”
Traveling to Barnum next Friday, Anderson hopes to have his team healthy as they prepare to face off against another tough opponent.
“We had a tough game against Braham where it was 74 degrees out. Today it was 35 and cold and the field was wet and our guys are banged up a little bit. Hopefully we can clean them up and move on to Barnum next week.”
DR 0 14 16 6 — 36
NW 6 30 0 12 — 48
N: Jared Chiabotti 45 run (pass fail)
D: Sam Rahier 5 run (pass tail)
N: TJ Chiabotti 46 run (pass fail)
N: T. Chiabotti 6 run (Zach Cheney run)
D: Ty Morrison 49 pass from Blake Fox (CJ Bellefy pass from Fox)
N: T. Chiabotti 61 run (Cheney pass from Ty Fabish)
N: J. Chiabotti 53 run (Cheney pass from Fabish)
D: Tygh Gullickson 5 run (Gullickson run)
D: Bellefy 4 pass from Fox (Rhett Mundt pass from Fox)
N: Olin Nelson 12 pass from Fabish (pass fail)
N: T. Chiabotti 12 run (run fail)
D: Rahier 8 run (pass fail)
Mesabi East 12,
International Falls 0
At International Falls, Levi Skelton and Logan Schroeder scored touchdowns for the Giants as the visitors downed the Broncos, 12-6.
Skelton scored from 34 yards out in the first quarter, while Schroeder ran the other Mesabi East score in from the one yard line in the second quarter.
Gavin Skelton paced the Giants with 22 rushes for 162 yards.
International Falls was led by Ben Glowack with 16 of 29 passing for 113 yards and a 26-yard rushing touchdown.
Mesabi East (1-1) plays Virginia in Aurora on Friday, Oct. 23.
Mesabi East 6 6 0 0 -- 12
International Falls 0 6 0 0 -- 6
ME: Levi Skelton 34 run (pass failed)
IF: Ben Glowack 26 run (run failed)
ME: Logan Schroeder 1 run (pass failed)
Two Harbors 20,
At Two Harbors, the Agates outscored Virginia 20-12 to improve to improve to 1-1 on the season.
The Blue Devils fell to 0-2.
Virginia plays in Aurora against Mesabi East at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23.