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Bombers, Rebels prevail; season ends for 'Jacks

Sectional football play entered its midpoint last Saturday as all the remaining local football teams were in action. Four local teams will be moving on to section championship games, while two other teams were eliminated.

South Ridge, Barnum, Moose Lake/Willow River and Esko all moved on.

Section 7A

The Barnum Bombers came into their sectional game against North Woods as the No. 3 seed to the Grizzlies No. 2, and knowing the Grizzlies defeated the Bombers 28-14 Sept. 24. On Saturday, the Bombers reversed their fortunes by coming back in the second half and notching a 48-26 win to move into the championship game.

“We are extremely proud of this team. After falling behind 26-12, several players stepped up and made big-time plays to battle back in the second half,” said head coach Rob Minkkinen. “The team played fast and physically, with confidence, and that is what we ask of them. It was a great team win.”

The Grizzlies feature star running back T.J. Chiabotti along with some big and physical linemen, but the Bombers withstood the early challenge and bounced back for an impressive road win.

“We are very pleased with the performance our team had,” Minkkinen said. “The way we came out in the second half both offensively and defensively is something they should be proud of. But there are definitely little things that we want to clean up heading into Friday’s matchup with Deer River.”

Sophomore quarterback Hayden Charboneau passed for 257 yards and six touchdowns, and had six carries for 42 rushing yards. Wideout J.J. Stevens caught seven passes for 114 yards and three scores, while Joe Peterson added six catches for 72 yards and a touchdown. Max Moors added 11 carries good for 102 yards rushing and two touchdowns, while Willie Richardson chipped in with eight carries — good for 96 yards and a touchdown.

“A ton of credit needs to go to our offensive lineman who matched North Woods’ physicality up-front,” said Minkkinen.

Barnum will play Deer River for the Section 7A championship at 7 p.m. Friday night in Proctor. The Bombers lost to Deer River 36-20 on Oct. 8.

Section 7AA

All season long the Moose Lake/Willow River football team has manhandled opponents and tossed them to the wayside. Nothing changed on Saturday when the Rebels piled up 470 yards’ worth of offense as they pounded International Falls 63-26 in Willow River for the semifinal win.

“International Falls played a good game and pushed our kids,” said Rebels coach Dave Louzek. “We made some mistakes defensively that our players will be able to see on lowlights.”

On offense, quarterback Sam Neumann was 3 for 4 passing, good for 71 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Junior running back Jackson Thompson had five carries good for 139 yards and three rushing touchdowns and one reception for a touchdown. Senior running back Logan Orvedahl added eight carries for 127 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.

Defensively, the Rebels were also stellar as they recorded four interceptions, including one returned for a touchdown by sophomore Kaden Robbins. The defense also finished with five sacks, led by Duane Broughton with two of those sacks.

The win improved the Rebels record to 7-0 in a season where they have outscored their opponents 335 to 53 over seven games. The Rebels average nearly 48 points a game while giving up just seven points per game.

ML/WR were facing Mesabi East for the Section 7AA title at 6 p.m. Thursday in Esko, a team the Rebels beat 64-0 this season.

Section 7AAAA

After opening sectional play with a home win over Duluth Denfeld, the No. 4 seeded Lumberjacks hit the road Saturday night to play the No. 1 seeded North Branch Vikings. Just 10 days before, the Vikings had throttled Cloquet 49-12.

At halftime of Saturday’s game, the Lumberjacks were down just 14-7, but the Vikings ratcheted up play in the second half and rolled away to a 34-13 win.

After stalling out on their first drive of the game, the ’Jacks elected to punt — only to have their punt blocked. That eventually led to the first score of the game for North Branch.

“We did some good things defensively in the first half, but the offense struggled up-front with their defensive line,” said Cloquet head coach Tom Lenarz. “Special teams mistakes cost us the first touchdown and we just didn’t move the ball consistently. Penalties were a problem all year and that proved to be an issue in the first half again.”

Going into the game, the Lumberjacks coaching staff knew they had to put points up against North Branch and stop its potent running games.

“We had chances in the second half, and we were able to move the ball at times, but we just couldn’t finish drives,” said Lenarz. “Eventually they were able to bust a couple big plays open on us. North Branch is a good football team, and we knew coming in we would have to score three or four touchdowns to win the game. We just didn’t get it done. They took away our interior run game and forced us to pass more and we just were not able to complete those passes with as much regularity as we needed to score. It’s hard to throw the ball a lot in high school football.”

The Lumberjacks finished the season with a 5-5 record and had to overcome a number of injuries to key players that slowed the team’s momentum.

“I was proud of our effort this season. We seemed to be playing with a different starting lineup every week because we just couldn’t keep everyone healthy,” Lenarz said. “We understand that is part of the game and the kids didn’t make excuses. They just lined up and played as hard as they could. I really enjoyed this group of kids, and we will miss the seniors next year.”

Lenarz said there is a lot of talent returning as well.

“As long as the guys work hard to improve over the next year, I feel great about where we are as a program,” he said.