Prep football: Hawks top Rails to regain Hammer
First, an acknowledgement of the obvious: High school football games are not played on paper. And yet, on paper, Class AAAA No. 8 Hermantown was widely expected to steamroll nemesis Proctor on Friday night at sloppy Corey Veech Memorial Field, wh...
First, an acknowledgement of the obvious: High school football games are not played on paper.
And yet, on paper, Class AAAA No. 8 Hermantown was widely expected to steamroll nemesis Proctor on Friday night at sloppy Corey Veech Memorial Field, where the programs were meeting in the 68th installment of the Hammer series. The Hawks were 6-0, the Rails 1-5.
But you know what happens when rivals square off.
“Throw the records out the window,” Hermantown coach Mike Zagelmeyer said.
Out they went, and suddenly surprising Proctor had a 7-0 lead at halftime.
The Hawks regrouped over the final 24 minutes, though, and remained unbeaten in the Zagelmeyer Era via a 15-7 victory in front of a full crowd that was lively from start to finish - likely just as much due to the action on the field as the cold temps, which dropped to a windchill of 25 degrees by game’s end.
The Hawks snapped a modest two-game skid in this annual grudge match, which dates to 1941. By doing so, they are a win away from drawing even with the Rails, who lead 34-33-1 (regular season only).
“It’s fantastic,” Hermantown senior workhorse David Cornelius said. “Having it in Proctor for two years and finally getting it back on our home field - homecoming - it’s amazing.”
Cornelius rushed 32 times for 184 yards, no small feat given the state of the Hawks’ home venue, which was softer than dryer lint. The middle of the field, where grass had long since been trampled into submission, featured much more brown than green. It didn’t seem to slow Cornelius much, who’s up to about 1,000 yards through seven games.
The conditions should have portended a low-scoring affair.
“On a field like this, on a night like this, this is old-time football, and that’s what Proctor does best,” said Zagelmeyer, the first-year coach whose predecessor, Daryl Illikainen, was in attendance. “They play down and dirty football. That’s what they do well, and hand it to them - they played a heck of a game. They mucked it up with us.”
Winless since their season opener at International Falls, the Rails capitalized on Hermantown’s second turnover of the first quarter when junior quarterback Conner St. Germaine ran in from 11 yards out on third down. That’s where the score remained until Tate Hansen’s 3-yard rushing TD cut the Hawks’ deficit to 7-6 midway through the third quarter.
Later in the third, Hermantown’s Griffin Johnson surprised everyone, most notably himself, by booting a 28-yard field goal. Johnson celebrated his high-arcing kick with arms raised toward the sideline.
Allowing less than 10 points a night, Hermantown’s defense showed off its stinginess Friday. The Hawks held Proctor to about 100 yards of total offense, including nine second-half rushing yards. As a result, Hermantown’s seniors get their first turn with the Hammer. The Hawks had won five straight over their neighbors before falling in 2016 and again last year.
“It’s a great feeling,” Hawks senior Caden Potter said. “Especially with it happening two years in a row, which hurt.”
Potter, a grinding, between-the-tackles runner, sealed it for Hermantown with a 6-yard touchdown late in the fourth quarter.
Rails coach Derek Parendo couldn’t find fault with his team’s effort. They were in it until the end, even as most people had counted them out before the start.
“Coming in at 1-5 vs. a 6-0 team, I think it would’ve been easy for our kids to pull up stakes,” Parendo said. “Very proud of our guys. They fought like dogs tonight.”
Next up for Hermantown is Wednesday’s regular-season finale at Cloquet, another rivalry contest that could decide the top playoff seed in Section 7AAAA. The Hawks insist they weren’t looking ahead to that showdown.
“No, our focus was on the Hammer game,” Potter said. “It’s Proctor and it’s a huge rivalry, so you have to focus on this one. I think we did a better job of that in the second half.”
Hermantown 0-0-9-6-15 P - Conner St. Germaine 11 run (Ben Harnell kick)
H - Tate Hansen 3 run (run failed)
H - Griffin Johnson 28 field goal
H - Caden Potter 6 run (kick failed)