Prep football: Cromwell-Wright sprints past Wrenshall in Section 5 Nine-Man final
ESKO — Cromwell-Wright running back Nic Johnson said when he sees an opening, only one thought crosses his mind.
"I just think about touchdowns," Johnson said.
Johnson, a senior speedster, rushed 13 times for 155 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Cardinals to a 50-12 victory over Wrenshall in the Section 5 Nine-Man championship before about 700 at Esko Stadium.
Junior quarterback Drew Libbon added 13 carries for 153 yards and another score and also was efficient throwing the football when Cardinals needed it, which wasn't often.
Cromwell-Wright (11-0) advances to play Section 8 champion Stephen-Argyle (10-1) at 5:30 p.m. Friday in Bemidji. That game will feature two opponents who are no strangers to meeting in the state tournament, though it's been awhile, with the teams not meeting since the 2005 state title game.
"I love it," said Johnson, one of only two seniors on Cardinals' roster. "It's a dream come true making it to state."
To its credit, upstart Wrenshall (8-3) wasn't as overmatched as the final score might indicate. The Wrens simply didn't have the depth to keep up with a perennial state-qualifying program such as Cromwell-Wright.
"Wrenshall has a really good team," Johnson said. "They hung around and made it a struggle, but the game plan was to go out and do what we do. Don't worry about struggling and messing up, but just keep going play by play. Just stick to hitting hard and playing smash-mouth football."
Wrenshall trailed just 8-0 after the first quarter and 15-6 in the second quarter after sophomore quarterback Randy Wimmer showed he can play a little defense as well, returning an interception of Libbon 20 yards for a score. But any momentum the Wrens gained was immediately erased when Johnson raced 61 yards for a score.
Cromwell, which led 22-6 at the break, put the game away with 21 unanswered points in the third quarter as Wrenshall wore down, including two touchdowns by junior Cameron Cahoon, who finished with 12 carries for 108 yards.
Wrenshall standout senior running back Tyler Kelley was contained, rushing 24 times for 99 yards, while his brother, Jared, had 12 carries for 82 yards.
"They just took it to us," Wrenshall coach Jeremy Zywicki said. "They just have a solid football team top to bottom. There were just no holes.
"Tyler was an unbelievable player and athlete for us, and with everything he did for us, we're going to miss him."
Johnson, who has a top time in the 100 meters of 11.25 seconds, said he has run the 40-yard dash as fast as 4.52 seconds. The Minnesota State-Moorhead football recruit is also one of the top sprinters in the area and it showed Friday. The angle some Wrenshall defenders thought they had disappeared in a hurry.
On the flip side, Cromwell-Wright put eight players in the box on defense, daring the Wrens to beat them deep before the Cardinals' pass rush reached them. The one man in the back? Johnson?
"Yes," Cardinals coach Jeff Gronner said, laughing. "Speed helps, doesn't it? It makes everything easier. This is one of the fastest teams I've ever had. Really, I have three or four guys who can take it to the house any time, and that's a nice luxury to have."
CW — Drew Libbon 1 run (Kannon Korpela pass from Libbon)
CW — Korpela 8 pass from Libbon (Enrico Francato kick)
W — Randy Wimmer 20 interception return (run failed)
CW — Nic Johnson 61 run (Francato kick)
CW — Cameron Cahoon 5 run (Francato kick)
CW — Johnson 9 run (Francato kick)
CW — Cameron Cahoon 4 run (Francato kick)
CW — Isaac Shelton 3 pass from Libbon (Francato kick)
W — Tyler Kelley 1 run (kick failed)
SECTION 7 NINE-MAN
North Woods 28,
Cook County 6
Garrett Abramson has battled injuries most of the season but on Friday, he showed what he can do when healthy.
Abramson, a senior fullback and four-year starter, rushed for 152 yards and three touchdowns to lead North Woods past Cook County in the Section 7 Nine Man title game in Esko.
"Two years ago we lost 15-14 in the section playoffs, last year we lost 23-0 in the section final, so this year, it was time for a change," Abramson said, laughing.
Brendan Parson added 132 rushing yards and a touchdown, Tate Olson had 180 passing yards and Tanner Barto had 142 receiving yards for North Woods.
North Woods (9-1) advances to play Section 6 champion Nevis (9-1) in the state quarterfinals at 8 p.m. Friday in Bemidji.
"It's not that noticeable, but you have to play defense to stop our pass, which opens up our running game," North Woods coach John Jirik said.
The perfect offense for the cozy confines of U.S. Bank Stadium.
"We'll have to get through an icy cold game at frigid Bemidji first," Jirik said, laughing. "We're still going to work on passing the ball, I can guarantee that."
Quarterback Josh Prom had 80 rushing yards and a touchdown pass to lead Cook County (9-2).
Cook County 0-0-6-0—6
North Woods 8-6-14-0—28
NW — Garrett Abramson 1 run (Brendan Parson run)
W — Abramson 4 run (run failed)
CC — Jack Haussner 50 pass from Josh Prom (run failed)
NW — Parson 5 run (Tanner Barto pass from Tate Olson)
NW — Abramson 2 run (pass failed)