Unbeaten powers MIB and Cromwell ready for 9-man quarterfinal clash

Two longtime powers with 11-0 records and excellent quarterbacks are set to meet in a highly anticipated football game that has a lot riding on the outcome.

Two longtime powers with 11-0 records and excellent quarterbacks are set to meet in a highly anticipated football game that has a lot riding on the outcome.

Ohio State and Michigan?

Nope, that's still a week away.

Cromwell and Mountain Iron-Buhl take center stage in a Minnesota Nine-Man state quarterfinal game at 7 p.m. Friday. The game was moved from Mountain Iron to Ewens Field in Virginia due to unplayable conditions at MIB's field.

It's a matchup of teams that have qualified for a combined six state tournaments in the last four seasons. During that span, Cromwell is 41-6 with one runner-up finish; MIB is 38-6.


"This will be a great matchup for nine-man football in the area,'' Cromwell coach Jeff Gronner said. "We scrimmaged them this year and played them last year [a 32-21 season-opening victory], so there is some familiarity there. They are a very good team that can score. They have a high-octane offense and are solid on defense, too. It's a very good challenge for us.''

It's also a matchup of two of the best quarterbacks in the area: Rangers senior D.J. Winfield has put up mind-boggling statistics, while Cardinals junior Cody Hendrickson is equally adept at running and passing.

"I don't know if there's any way of shutting either one of them down, you just hope to contain them," MIB coach Wally Kostich said.

Despite playing on a gimpy right ankle for much of the past couple seasons, Winfield has rushed for 1,501 yards on 120 carries (12.5 yards per attempt) and completed 40 of 69 passes for 660 yards. He's rushed for 25 touchdowns and thrown for 10 more. Winfield, who has narrowed his college choice to Minnesota Duluth or North Dakota, leads an offense that averages 44.5 points per game.

"He's a threat to score any time he touches the ball,'' Gronner said.

Hendrickson is nearing a 1,000-yard double. He's thrown for 1,335 yards and rushed for a team-leading 921 (7.7 yards per carry) with a combined 34 TDs.

"We like to think we have somebody just as good (as Winfield) in Hendrickson,'' Gronner said. "He's only a junior, but he's one of the best to ever put on a Cromwell uniform. He doesn't have Winfield's athletic ability, but he's a great competitor, leader and playmaker. Winfield has drawn most of the attention, and that's probably rightfully so, but our guys feel we have someone just as good.''

Kostich said he has been impressed with Hendrickson since he saw him at a camp last summer in International Falls and again when the teams scrimmaged in preseason.


"That affirmed what I saw at the Falls,'' he said.

Hendrickson is aided by quality receiver Levi Sheff (24-379) and an offensive game plan that doesn't treat the forward pass as a lost art.

"I'm confident because I have good receivers,'' Hendrickson said. "I definitely like passing because it opens it up for running."

The Rangers lost their previous forays to the state quarterfinals in 2003 and 2004. Winfield believes this is the year his team can advance to the Metrodome.

"I think we are the only thing that can stop ourselves,'' he said. "We all want to win Friday so we can achieve our main goal of getting to the Dome and winning a state championship."

While the winner gets to play on the Dome's artificial surface, this week's game nearly was forced to the fake turf. With MIB's field in poor condition, Kostich considered moving the game to either UMD's Malosky Stadium or Public Schools Stadium before keeping the game on the Iron Range.

"Getting these two quarterbacks on the turf would have been an outstanding matchup," Kostich said.

It still should be.


RICK WEEGMAN covers prep football for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5302, (800) 456-8181 or e-mailed at

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