UPDATED: Northwestern wins big despite penaltiesThe Northwestern High School football team opened its home season with a 49-0 victory over Amery
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
MAPLE — Yellow flags halted play frequently in Friday’s match-up between the Northwestern Tigers and Amery Warriors.
Penalties called back a pair of long runs and cost the Tigers a potential touchdown, but the Northwestern High School football team still won its home opener 49-0.
“I think we just had so much adrenaline,” said senior Kasey Leggate, who scored three touchdowns for Northwestern. He said the Tigers were keyed up for Friday’s game, which probably led to more penalties than usual.
“You just get antsy and you want to get more yards,” Leggate said.
Northwestern had a few false starts and facemask infractions, but most of the Tigers’ penalties came on holding or blocking calls. Tigers head coach Dennis Scherz suspects many of those calls were made because of Northwestern’s playing style.
“We teach guys to block to the whistle, and referees aren’t used to that,” Scherz said. “So a couple times here we’re getting accused of holding, and we’re just blocking.
“It’s legal to put your hands on a guy’s chest and block; that’s what we’ve been preaching and teaching, and that’s what they’re doing. That’s what I think we’re getting called for.”
The penalties slowed Northwestern but didn’t stop the Tigers from scoring.
On the opening kickoff, Leggate returned the ball the length of the field for a touchdown.
“It was a great return,” Scherz said. “He caught that thing and the momentum of the ball took him back to the half-yard line.”
After securing the long kick, Leggate made his way into the open field and sprinted 99 yards to give Northwestern its first touchdown just 17 seconds into the game. Adam Holden kicked for the extra point to give the Tigers a 7-0 lead.
“I was not expecting that,” Leggate said. “I thought the kick was going over (my head), but I somehow caught it and found my blockers.”
Leggate’s kickoff return gave the Tigers the start they wanted Friday, but a string of penalties and blunders kept Northwestern from scoring again until the start of the second quarter. The most costly mistake came when a lost fumble put Amery in position for a field goal attempt.
The Tigers set up the fumble when they mishandled a punt to put them deep in their own territory with 8:10 left in the first quarter. Northwestern picked up two first downs behind the running of T.J. Polkoski but sputtered when a 40-yard run was called back on a blocking penalty. Two plays later, Northwestern fumbled the ball and the Warriors recovered at the Tigers’ 26-yard line.
Amery reached the 15 before the Tiger defense clamped down. Mac Torrey began the stand with a big hit for a loss. A short pass and an incompletion brought up fourth down for the Warriors at the 11-yard line. The field goal kick missed, and Northwestern used the final two minutes of the first quarter to move the ball to the Amery 38.
Ten seconds into the second quarter, Polkoski ran the ball around the left side to give the Tigers a 14-0 lead.
Northwestern then scored three more touchdowns in the final four minutes of the second quarter to take a 35-0 lead into halftime.
Zak Anttila scored the first of the touchdowns at 3:59 when he took the ball right through the middle of Amery’s defense for a 20-yard score.
Nolan Graff got the ball back for the Tigers a minute and a half later when he created a fumble on a strong tackle.
“Nolan Graff, the fumble he caused over here, that was a classic Northwestern football hit,” Scherz said. “Those are the things we teach. You hit hard.”
The Tigers took advantage of Graff’s big hit when Cody Kontny lofted a pass to Sam Schiff to make it 27-0.
The Warriors fumbled and lost the ball again on their next series, giving Northwestern possession at the 12-yard line with 1:10 to play before halftime. Leggate ran the ball in, and Kontny’s pass to Tyler Forsythe for the two-point conversion put Northwestern up 35-0.
Leggate tacked on another TD for the Tigers four minutes into the third quarter, and Anttila finished up the scoring with a 45-yard run to make it 49-0.
The Tigers started the fourth quarter with a sack to force a punt, but a fumble at 9:50 returned the ball to Amery. The Warriors, playing in running time, picked up two first downs before a big hit from Will Pederson put them back near midfield at third and 19.
Northwestern returned the ensuing punt to its own 40 with 4:50 to play and moved inside Amery’s 20-yard line before time expired.
“We played hard. We came out, we did our thing, and then our second team came in and finished it,” Leggate said.
Leggate finished the night with three touchdowns and 61 yards rushing. Anttila ran for 78 yards and two touchdowns, while Polkoski and Schiff each scored once. Polkoski finished with 119 yards rushing, and quarterback Kontny was 3-for-4 for 48 yards and one touchdown pass — a 37-yard throw to Schiff. Dee Burse and Graff both grabbed interceptions for the Tigers.
Scherz also gave credit to his offensive line for opening holes in Amery’s defense.
“They’re fantastic blockers, from Brandon Rounsville to Will Pederson, (Jack) Levine, (Logan) Tuura. And we challenged Taylor Truan to rise to the (higher) level and he did tonight; he had a great night of blocking,” Scherz said. “Sam Schiff too, he’s at tight end and comes down to make a great block on linebackers. We wouldn’t be doing those things without the blocking we’ve got.”
“Our blocking is solid,” Leggate agreed. “It makes it easy, and it makes us look good.”
The Tigers (2-0) host Spooner at 7 p.m. Friday to open Heart O’ North Conference play.