Wolverines come up short against Hawks, 20-13
By By Ben Romsaas Mesabi Tribune,2023-09-30
VIRGINIA—Through three quarters, the Rock Ridge football team looked like they had a chance to pull off a big time upset, leading visiting Hermantown 13-7.
But some miscues and bad bounces from the Wolverines and a couple heads up plays and sustained drives from the Hawks turned the tide late as Hermantown scored the final two touchdowns of the game to escape Raduenz Field with a 20-13 win.
Finding early success defensively, the Wolverines played a competitive game from start to finish and had the ball in their hands with a chance to win at the end. With 1:36 to play trailing 20-13, Rock Ridge started a drive on the Hermantown 48 and needed just a few plays to go their way late.
The drive started off smoothly when quarterback James Toman hit Zane Lokken near the sideline for a nine-yard gain. The Wolverines looked to replicate that play on the next snap, but Toman’s pass was intercepted on just inbounds by Hawks standout Peyton Menzel.
With no timeouts, Rock Ridge could only watch as Hermantown ran out the clock from there.
After the game, Wolverines head coach Brandon Borich had praise for his squad, coming up just short against a much larger 4-1 Hermantown team.
“I told those guys to leave it all on the field,” Borich said. “We hadn’t done that yet. If you leave it all on the field, you’re going to like the outcome. The loss stings but they left it out there and still liked what they saw. I’m proud of these guys. Hermantown is a tough team and they played their hearts out. A couple plays here or there and it’s different.
“We still aren’t getting those little breaks to go our way. Our guys haven’t been in a close game like this before where one or two plays make the difference. But they stepped up tonight and played a good game. We came up a little short but I’m very excited about what I’m seeing.”
While Rock Ridge didn’t score until the second quarter, the Wolverines’ opening drive of the game was a solid one. Starting at their own 20, senior Ryan Herberg took handoff after handoff from Toman and ran right through the much larger Hermantown front.
A big 21-yard run put Rock Ridge into Hawks territory on the 36. The Wolverines kept pushing forward, getting to the Hermantown 24 before things took a turn. The field covered in a dense fog all game, the conditions weren’t favorable for visibility or ball control as the snap on first down went over Toman’s head, losing 12 yards for the Wolverines. Forced to switch things up, the run stalled out and the Wolverines turned the ball over on downs.
There was only one more full drive in the first quarter as Rock Ridge ate six minutes off the clock to start the game. Hermantown moved the ball downfield and into Rock Ridge territory, but the Wolverine defense came up big, stopping the Hawks on a fourth and 10 at the 42 to get back on offense.
Rock Ridge ended the quarter driving with Herberg picking up big yardage again. Starting the second quarter, the Wolverines took the Hawks by surprise on a trick play. Toman pitched the ball out to Lokken, who then aired it out for Rory Cope-Robinson downfield. Cope-Robinson made the catch and found the end zone for the 54-yard sore, putting Rock Ridge in front 7-0 after the extra point from Jacob Rostvit.
Starting at their own 19, Hermantown responded with their own scoring drive. With Lokken keeping the Hawks’ star receiver Menzel out of commission for most of the game, Hermantown quarterback Alex Schott had to look elsewhere for passing yards. He set his sights on Zachary Thorsten and Brody Summers, both of whom hauled in big catches for Hermantown to keep their drive moving.
On first and 10 from the Rock Ridge 19, Schott found Thorsten for the score, tying the game after a Bode Madill kick.
Not satisfied with a tie game, the Wolverines answered with another scoring drive. Starting on their own 33, Toman found Aiden Bird for eight yards to start things off. Herberg’s runs on the ground were starting to get sniffed out by the Hawks, forcing Rock Ridge to try other options.
On fourth and four inside Hermantown territory, Toman set Herberg in motion, who swept up the right side, clearing his defenders. Toman aired it out to Herberg, who brought down the pass for the 36-yard score.
Rostvit’s kick was blocked and Rock Ridge led 13-7.
It looked like momentum was going to stay on the Wolverines side as Indi Romero picked off Schott on the ensuing drive to give Rock Ridge the ball on the 50 with 1:43 to go in the half.
The Wolverines drove about 20 yards and had a would-be touchdown taking off the board after a Wolverine receiver caught a tipped ball in the end zone. No touchdown was awarded when the officials determined the receiver committed offensive pass interference, killing the drive.
With a lead at the break and a few plays away from being up two scores instead of one, Borich said his team had some momentum on their side.
“We had the energy going into that second half. Yeah, we were tired but we had a lot of guys stepping up tonight and making plays with the opportunities given to them. Zane Lokken shut down their big receiver and he was huge for us on both sides of the ball. We need performances like that to keep us in the games.”
Hermantown had a sustained drive to start the second half but the Wolverine defense forced the first punt of the game to keep their lead intact. Rock Ridge couldn’t do anything offensively either, punting it back to Hermantown.
Starting their next drive on their own 36 with 4:45 to go in the third quarter, Hermantown put together a scoring drive that ate up more than seven minutes of the clock. Taking it inside the Wolverine 10, Thorsten punched the ball through to the end zone for the six yard score to cap off the drive. After Madill’s kick, Hermantown led 14-13 with 9:36 to play.
Rock Ridge marched down the field for the next four minutes, eventually finding themselves in a fourth and eight situation from the 25-yard line. During the drive, Herberg was forced to the sideline with an injury, forcing the Wolverines to change up some of their plans.
Hoping to take the lead and then get a stop defensively, Rostvit came out for the 35-yard field goal attempt trailing one. The kick missed the mark, giving Hermantown the ball back with 5:23 to play.
The Hawks stuck to the ground game for the ensuing drive and burned up as much clock as they could. Eventually Schott broke free for the 40-yard score to put his team up 20-13 with 1:36 to play.
Schott’s score actually gave Rock Ridge one last chance. Had the quarterback downed himself after earning the first down, Hermantown could have ran out the clock, but the touchdown gave possession back to the Wolverines.
After a great return on the kickoff from Caz Carlson, Rock Ridge stood a chance with 1:36 to go and the ball at midfield. But Manzel’s late interception sealed the game, handing the loss to the Wolverines.
Missing the late field goal and having less options on the final drive with Herberg out, Borich says the late game execution was a struggle for his team in a less than ideal scenario.
“It came down to the clock and with the injuries we had, we were limited on what we could do. We were down to our fifth-string quarterback with guys learning new positions. We had a shot on the last drive but [Menzel] made a great play on the sideline.”
While their record shows 1-4, Borich says it’s clear the team is making great strides after coming into the season with very little experience.
“The kids set those goals in our midseason meetings and I can say that they made huge steps tonight in meeting those goals. They know we can compete with anyone. But we’re inexperienced. I can count on one hand the number of kids who have played four years of tackle football. So we’re learning how to play the game and how to win. Tiem is going to keep making us better.”
Rock Ridge returns to action next Friday when they travel to Two Harbors.
H 0 7 0 13—20
RR 0 13 0 0—13
R: Rory Cope-Robinson 54 pass from Zane Lokken (Jacob Rostvit kick)
H: Brody Summers 19 pass from Alex Schott (Bode Madill kick)
R: Ryan Herberg 36 pass from James Toman (Kick blocked)
H: Zachary Thorsten 6 run (Madill kick)
H: Schott 40 run (run failed)
Mesabi East 32
NASHWAUK—The Mesabi East football team got back to their winning ways on Friday, shutting out Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin 32-0 to move to 4-1 on the season.
Ethan Murray had two scores for the Giants, one on the ground and one through the air from Quarterback Landon Luke. Luke finished with two touchdown passes, getting another score from Cooper Sickel through the air.
Carter Steele capped off the Giants scoring with a six-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter
Murray finished the game with 118 rushing yards on 20 carries. Luke was 7-12 through the air for 122 yards.
Mesabi East (4-1) hosts Rush City this Friday.
ME 6 10 8 8—32
GNK 0 0 0 0—0
M: Ethan Murray 16 run (pass failed)
M: GNK punter tackled in end zone for safety
M: Murray 5 pass from Landon Luke (Cooper Sickel pass from Luke)
M: Sickel 16 pass from Luke (Henry Depew run)
M: Carter Steele 6 run (Depew run)
ELY—The Ely football team suffered a 55-8 home loss at the hands of the Braham Bombers on Friday.
No further information was reported to the Mesabi Tribune.
Ely (1-4) travels to Deer River on Friday.
Mountain Iron-Buhl 61,
KELLIHER—The top-ranked Mountain Iron-Buhl football team pitched their fourth consecutive shutout of the season on Friday, blitzing past Kelliher/Northome 61-0.
The Rangers (5-0) travel to Blackduck on Friday.
North Woods 56,
Cass Lake-Bena 14
CASS LAKE—The North Woods football team picked up their second win of the season and the first since opening week on Friday, making short work of Cass Lake-Bena 56-14.
No further information was reported to the Mesabi Tribune as of Saturday afternoon.
North Woods (2-3) travels to Cherry on Friday.