UPDATED: Tigers win again; set sights on 9-0 seasonNorthwestern remains undefeated with 44-16 win over Cumberland
By: Ken Olson, Superior Telegram
MAPLE — The Northwestern Tigers got tested for the first time this season and they still won by 28 points.
Leading the Cumberland Beavers just 19-16 late in the third quarter, the Tigers got back to the basics and scored the final 25 points for a 44-16 victory Friday night at Tiger Stadium at the Gordon L. Nelson Complex.
“It was nice to be in a tight ball game and see how we would respond,” NHS coach Dennis Scherz said. “We had a great start, but had a couple of miscues that let them back in the game. You can’t give teams chances like that. When you have then down like we did, you have to keep rolling over them.”
With the win the Tigers improve to 8-0 overall 6-0 in the Heart O’ North Conference. They will attempt to wrap up an undefeated season at 7 p.m. Thursday at Hayward.
“That’s what we’re after and we’re preparing for this as a must-win game,” Scherz said. “We’ve won a lot of conference championships, but it’s difficult to do so while going undefeated in a tough conference like we’re in.”
Northwestern averages 46.3 points a game and usually ends up playing only reserves in the second half. Friday seemed no different as the Tigers jumped out to a 19-0 lead in the first quarter.
T.J. Polkoski scored two of his four touchdowns in the opening 12 minutes on runs of 18 and 5 yards.
Between Polkoski’s TDs, Donnie Hissa, a 6-foot-8 lineman for the Tigers, intercepted a pass at the line of scrimmage and returned it 31 yards for a touchdown.
Two plays into Cumberland’s next possession, Jake Schiff picked off another pass, which set up Polkoski’s run up the middle with 37.9 seconds left in the opening quarter.
“Donnie kind of stabbed at the ball with one hand, caught it and then scored,” Scherz said. “Both of those interceptions were huge plays. They helped us get off to the start that we wanted to.”
Northwestern’s defense was so dominant early on that it didn’t allow a Cumberland first down until only 2:30 remained in the second quarter.
That first down, though, gave the Beavers a spark as they finished the first half with an 11-play, 86-yard drive that ended with a Brady Rose 1-yard touchdown run and a Sam Clark pass to Adam Bielmeier on the conversion.
The TD was set up by a 24-yard pass from Rose, a running back who took the snap from center, to quarterback Sam Clark, who lined up as a wide receiver.
Cumberland’s passing game helped it get within 19-16 on the first drive of the third quarter.
After pass plays of 23 and 21 yards, Rose scored from 3 yards out and then tacked on the two-point conversion.
That was enough for the Tigers, who followed up with a 15-play, 83-yard drive that ended with Polkoski breaking three or four tackles on a 12-yard touchdown run.
“We watched film of Cumberland and they ran the ball 92 times and threw just nine times,” Scherz said. “So they definitely changed their game plan. But after their second touchdown, I thought we adjusted well to what they were doing.”
The Tigers’ defense got into the scoring column again when Cumberland snapped the ball trough the end zone after being stopped inside its own 5-yard line.
Northwestern put the finishing touches on the victory with touchdown runs by Polkoski and Kevin Derick in the final three minutes.
Polkoski led Northwestern on the ground with 137 yard on 19 carries. Miesbauer was right behind with 118 yards on 20 carries and Derick had 112 yards on 15 totes.
Eray Meral kicked two extra-points while Miesbauer and Kasey Leggate ran in for two-point conversions.
Steve Perry’s only pass attempt was intercepted by Adam Bielmeier, who also led Cumberland with 16 tackles. Brady Rose and Mitch Blazer added 12 tackles apiece.
TIGER TALES: Both of Schiff’s interceptions led to NHS touchdowns. … Northwestern’s Taylor Truan punted twice for 64 yards. … Polkoski now has 16 TDs on the season. … Having already clinched a playoff berth, and a share of the HON title, it’s highly likely the Tigers will host a first-round playoff game on Oct. 27. The pairings are expected to be released Friday afternoon. … Scherz believes the Tigers enjoyed four undefeated seasons, including 2004 and the state championship team of 1988.
Cumberland 0 8 8 0 — 16
Northwestern 19 0 8 17 — 44
NW—T.J. Polkoski 18-yard run (Eray Meral kick), 4:40.
NW—Donnie Hissa 31-yard interception return (kick failed), 3:51.
NW—Polkoski 5-yard run (pass failed), :37.9.
C—Brady Rose 1-yard run (Adam Bielmeier pass from Sam Clark), :20.3.
C—Rose 3-yard run (Rose run), 8:54.
NW—Polkoski 12-yard run (Ryan Miesbauer run), 2;48.
NW— Safety (snap went through the end zone)
NW—Polkoski 4-yard run (Kasey Leggate run), 3:06.
NW—Kevin Derick 35-yard run (Meral kick), 0:39.