UPDATED: Tigers roar to 6-0Northwestern takes bite out of Bulldogs with 45-7 win Friday night
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
Three games remain in the regular season, but the Northwestern High School football team is already assured a spot in the playoffs.
The Tigers picked up their fourth win in the Heart O’ North Conference Friday in Maple with a 45-7 victory over the Chetek Bulldogs.
Northwestern (6-0 overall, 4-0 HON) had not made the playoffs since 2005. This season, however, the Tigers have dominated their opponents.
With a steady rain and blustery wind Friday, the conditions at the Gordon L. Nelson Athletic Complex were far from ideal.
“It’s miserable. This might be one of the worst nights I’ve ever experienced with the wind and the rain,” NHS coach Dennis Scherz said. “My plan was to pass 12 times this game, but with the wind it just wasn’t going to happen.”
Instead, the Tigers attempted just one pass and rushed for 391 yards and five touchdowns against the Bulldogs (1-5, 0-4).
Though it doesn’t show in the final score, Chetek held the Northwestern offense in check for much of the first quarter. After the Tigers hit Chetek hard to leave the Bulldogs with negative yardage in their opening series, Northwestern returned the punt to its own 39 to start.
Northwestern made it to the Bulldogs’ 47 for a first down but stalled on the next three plays and was forced to punt.
“We watched a lot of film on Chetek, and they’re a lot better than their record. They’re a tough defensive team, and we got tested,” Scherz said. “We passed the test, but I’ll tell you what, they came after us.”
Junior Kasey Leggate scored the first touchdown of the game for the Tigers with about a minute and a half left in the first quarter. Setting up the touchdown was a long run by Kevin Derick, who went left around the Bulldogs and took the ball about 65 yards to the five-yard line. Two plays later, Leggate scored his first of three touchdowns for the night.
The Tigers came to life after their first touchdown, but it was actually the Northwestern defense that sparked the run.
“The defense did a fantastic job,” Scherz said. “They shut them down and got a couple big picks.”
Justin Alexson got things going for Northwestern on the kickoff, stopping Chetek on its own 13-yard line. Jake Schiff hit Chetek for a loss of two on its first play, and Steven Perry then picked off a Chetek pass and ran it in for the touchdown to give the Tigers a 12-0 lead with about 40 second left in the quarter.
About three minutes into the second quarter, Leggate picked off another Bulldog pass. He dodged a few tackles to carry the ball 35 yards into the end zone, and the extra point kick made it 19-0 for the Tigers.
“All that stuff that he does we can’t teach. That is natural; he’s just a natural runner,” Scherz said of Leggate. “He made some great cuts and you saw it. It speaks for itself.”
Leggate would go on to score one more touchdown in the fourth quarter as the Tigers rolled to the 45-7 win. Northwestern scored 12 points in the first quarter, 14 in the second, six in the third and 13 in the fourth.
Chetek scored its only points of the night at 8:05 in the third quarter. Bulldog running back Turner Olson cut right around the Tiger defense and ran the ball 65 yards for the touchdown.
For the game, Derick had two touchdowns and 145 yards rushing to lead the Tigers. Ryan Miesbauer had one touchdown and 112 yards, Leggate had three touchdowns and 58 yards rushing, and Perry carried the ball for 69 yards and one touchdown off an interception.
Out for the game Friday was Northwestern’s TJ Polkoski. Scherz said the running back would be able to return in time for this week’s game against Barron Thursday.
The Tigers face Barron (0-6) on the road at 7 p.m.
“I don’t see them letting down,” Scherz said about the Tigers. “They’re a hunger team, and they want a conference championship. That’s their next goal.”