|10/31/2013 2:50:00 PM|
North Branch's season ends at hands of Packers
by JEFF NORTON
After dispatching of St. Paul Harding rather easily in the first round of sections, North Branch was presented a much tougher test in the semi-finals -- the 7-1 South St. Paul Packers -- and they didn’t pass the test. South St. Paul’s defense absolutely snuffed out North Branch’s run oriented attack and never let them get going. On offense, SSP did whatever they wanted on the ground, piling up 384 rushing yards, and had a respectable 70 yards passing.
The only saving grace for North Branch was that the Packers turned the ball over six times, although the Vikings returned that favor almost equally, turning the ball over five times. There was a combined nine fumbles, with eight of them changing hands, in the game and three interceptions. South St. Paul started the scoring nine minutes into the game when quarterback Bill Brandecker connected with Christian Rund for a 30-yard touchdown pass. The ensuing extra point was no good, and the Packers had a 6-0 lead. Four minutes into the second quarter, Brandecker struck again, this time running the ball in from two yards out for a score.
His pass was completed on the two point conversion and South St. Paul’s lead stretched to 14-0. It would only go uphill for the Vikings from there. Before the half was out, SSP’s Marco Freeman, who ran for 69 yards on five carries, scored on a 32-yard touchdown scamper. The score made it 21-0 in favor of South St. Paul at the half. The Packers took possession on the opening kickoff of the second half and marched down the field in two minutes and scored on a Brendan Shanley nine-yard touchdown run.
The Packers capped the scoring off midway through the fourth quarter on a six-yard touchdown run by Trenton McCloud, who had 118 yards on eight carries. The Vikings’ stats were abysmal on the day. They only had four first downs to SSP’s 20 and North Branch rushed for a season-low 28 yards on 29 carries. Senior quarterback Tony Denn, playing in his last game, had 23 yards on 11 carries. The rest of the team combined for five yards on 18 carries. Eli Chouinard grabbed one catch for 17 yards and Kodie Koolmo had one for 15, but Denn was just two-for-11 on the game with 32 yards and an interception.
For the defense, Jack Tholen and Dylan Dahle each had an interception. The loss ended the Vikings’ season at 3-7, with their wins coming over Duluth Denfeld, Duluth East and St. Paul Harding. North Branch will graduate a good chunk of seniors, including two-year captain Brandon Thauwald, a safety on defense, and quarterback Tony Denn who accounted for nearly 900 yards of total offense and nine touchdowns this year. But they will have second leading rusher Eli Chouinard, who piled up 515 yards and six touchdowns, back, as well as athletic receiver Jack Tholen and junior defensive end Michael Hensch , who was a captain this year.