Northwestern wraps up perfect regular season
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
The Northwestern High School football team held nothing back in its regular season finale Thursday night. Neither did the Ladysmith Lumberjacks.
Facing Ladysmith for the Heart O’ North Conference title, the Tigers scored 26 points in the first half and went on to win 39-23.
With the victory, Northwestern claimed its second consecutive HON title and has managed back-to-back 9-0 seasons for the first time in school history.
Ladysmith (7-2, 5-2) entered the game with a chance to claim a share of the HON crown, but Northwestern dimmed the Lumberjacks’ hopes of an upset in the first quarter.
Starting at the Ladysmith 46-yard line on its first possession, Northwestern needed just five plays to reach the Lumberjack 5-yard line for a first down. Kasey Leggate ran to within inches on the Tigers’ sixth play, and Northwestern then turned to T.J. Polkoski.
The Lumberjack defense held the senior fullback short of the end zone on his first two tries, but on fourth down Polkoski lowered his head and barreled in for the 1-yard touchdown. Adam Holden’s kick made it 7-0, NHS.
Northwestern maintained momentum on the defensive end, sacking Ladysmith quarterback Eric Effertz to force the Lumberjacks to punt after three plays.
On the ensuing punt, senior Dee Burse ran the ball back to the Ladysmith 30 to give Northwestern good field position for its second drive. Polkoski charged forward to the 15 on the Tigers’ first play, and Leggate then made up for a 5-yard penalty with a 14-yard run to the 6-yard line. Polkoski finished the drive again for Northwestern and Holden’s kick gave the Tigers a 14-0 lead after one quarter.
Ladysmith rallied in the second quarter, outscoring the Tigers 17-12 with two touchdowns and a field goal. Both Lumberjacks TDs came on passes from Effertz fellow senior Ryley Closs as Northwestern struggled to contain Ladysmith’s passing game. Todd Sarauer made both extra-point kicks and Ladysmith’s field goal attempt from 22 yards out to end the half.
Leggate and Polkoski each scored once in the quarter to keep the Tigers in front
Northwestern started the second half with a six-minute drive for a touchdown. After being set back by two consecutive penalties, quarterback Cody Kontny made the big play of the drive by connecting with Leggate for a 20-yard game. Kontny’s pass put the Tigers on the Ladysmith 8-yard line, and Leggate took the ball in the rest of the way to make it 33-17, Northwestern.
Polkoski added Northwestern’s final TD of the night about four minutes later, although it could have come much sooner. On the Tigers first play after reclaiming possession, Polkoski broke away to the open field and ran 70 yards for a touchdown. The play was called back, however, on a holding penalty, and it took Northwestern a half dozen plays before Polkoski was able to run the all in again — this time with no penalties called against the Tigers.
Ladysmith threatened to close the gap in the fourth quarter after two Tiger turnovers, but the Lumberjacks could only take advantage once as they fell 39-23.
Northwestern finishes the regular season undefeated and opens WIAA tournament play when its host Saint Croix Falls at 7 p.m. Tuesday.
Northwestern 14 12 13 0 — 39
Ladysmith 0 17 0 6 — 23
N — T.J. Polkoski, 1-yard run (Adam Holden kick).
N — Polkoski, 6-yard run (Holden kick).
L — Ryley Closs, 19-yard pass from Eric Effertz (Todd Sarauer kick)
N — Kasey Leggate, 24-yard run (kick failed).
L —Closs, 72-yard pass from Effertz (Sarauer kick).
N — Polkoski, 3-yard run (conversion failed).
L — Sarauer, 22-yard field goal kick.
N —Leggate, 8-yard run (Holden kick), 6:01.
N — Polkoski, 35-yard run (kick failed), 1:40.
L —Effertz, 1-yard run (conversion failed), 7:38.
NHS 2010 Regular Season
Aug. 27 — at Ashland W, 27-8
Sept. 3 — home vs. Amery W, 49-0
Sept. 10 — home vs. Spooner W, 42-0
Sept. 17 — at Bloomer W, 43-7
Sept. 24 — at Chetek W, 39-14
Oct. 1 — home vs. Barron W, 55-6
Oct. 8 — at Cumberland W, 56-14
Oct. 15 — home vs. Hayward W, 47-0
Oct. 21 — at Ladysmith W, 39-23