Northwestern ... past and presentPast and present overlapped Friday night in the Northwestern Tigers’ 48-22 victory over Ladysmith.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
MAPLE — Past and present overlapped Friday night in the Northwestern Tigers’ 48-22 victory over Ladysmith.
The 2013 Tigers held the spotlight most of the evening, but for a few minutes as halftime, all eyes focused on the stars of the past — the 1988 WIAA Division 3 State Championship team.
The former Tigers were honored Friday during the homecoming festivities at Northwestern High School. Twenty-five years have passed since the team went undefeated and claimed the state title, but fans still cheered in recognition when players’ names were announced.
“It was nice to see them,” said, Dennis Scherz, head coach of the Tigers. “They’re all really big now.”
Scherz was a member of the 1988 coaching staff under head coach Bill Pelkey. The 1988 team set a precedent, Scherz said, and Tiger fans hold the same high expectation for the Northwestern football program today.
“Fans come here and expect us to win,” he said. “They don’t care if we’re young. They don’t care if we’re mismatched. They expect us to win.”
The Tigers delivered Friday night to improve to 3-1 overall and 1-1 in the Heart O’ North Conference.
Northwestern scored 21 points in the first quarter and added another touchdown in the second quarter to lead 28-0 at halftime. Ladysmith (0-4, 0-2) scored its first touchdown on the opening drive of the third quarter and then scored twice more in the fourth quarter against the Tiger reserves.
Northwestern had only one penalty for the night. Ladysmith finished with seven, costing the Lumberjacks 65 yards.
“We didn’t make mistakes. That’s the big thing,” Scherz said. “We got the ball and took it down the field and did what we do. If you can keep that momentum, high school football is all about emotion and momentum.”
The Tigers seized momentum early with a big first quarter.
On the opening kick, Trevor Guenard returned the ball to the 31-yard line, and Northwestern needed only three plays to move across midfield. The Tigers converted on fourth down to keep their drive going and then overcame a holding penalty and a fumble.
Micah Goetsch saved the fumble for Northwestern when he snatched the ball away from a Ladysmith player on the ground.
On the next play, Nate Pearson gave the Tigers a first down at the 21-yard line with a 9-yard run. Guenard followed with a 13-yard run, and Goetsch finished up the drive with an 8-yard run up the middle.
Northwestern’s second TD came on a 50-yard run from Pearson. The sophomore angled right to slip by Ladysmith’s defense and then outpaced the Lumberjacks to the end zone.
Ladysmith returned the ball to Northwestern after just two minutes due to a series marred by a bad snap and near fumble.
Northwestern took the punt at the Lumberjack 26-yard line, and on the first play Luke Freeman connected with Mitch Graskey for a touchdown.
For the night, Freeman was 5-for-6 passing for 116 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. His second touchdown came in the fourth quarter on a 36-yard pass to Goetsch.
Pearson led the Tigers in rushing with 142 yards and three touchdowns, scoring once in each the first, second and third quarters. Goetsch added 58 yards rushing, and sophomore Justin Little had 57 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Northwestern’s junior varsity team played for much of the fourth quarter. Scherz said the arrangement was similar to what he saw in 1988.
“The similarity was that our second unit did a pretty good job. They moved the ball pretty well,” Scherz said. “That happened a lot in that season (1988) where the JV got better and better because they played half a game every game. They got to play JV and then some varsity.”
Northwestern’s younger players stepped up Friday, beginning with Noah Anttila’s interception with 5:08 to play. The sophomore picked off the ball at the 2-yard line and returned it 22 yards.
“Noah Anttila had to go in there, and he did a heck of a job,” Scherz said. “He’s been doing a great job as a scout corner, so I said, ‘Put him in. See what he can do.’ And he did a really good job. He had a couple of nice tackles and an interception. So here he is, a young undersized guy, but he did a heck of a job.”
After Anttila’s interception the relied on three sophomores to move the ball downfield. Alex Tuura began the drive with a 6-yard run; Little gave Northwestern consecutive first downs with a pair of 10-yard runs; and Dyllan Tribbey picked up 8 yards on his first carry. Little and Tribbey then each ran for another first down before Little scored on a 4-yard run.
The Tigers travel to Hayward Friday to face the Hurricanes. Hayward (1-3, 1-1) fell to Cumberland 40-21 in week two of conference play.
TIGER TALES: At halftime, the Tigers honored the 1988 WIAA Division 3 State Championship team. Joining Scherz to represent the coaching staff was Andy Lind, who was a defensive coach in 1988 and later served as head coach. Team managers Cynde Sullivan and Leta Tepoel were also present, along with Gregg Lundberg, who was athletic director in 1988. Players in attendance were: Matt Abell, Kraig Anderson, Jeff Anttila, Jody Anttila, Rick Brill, Mike Burbul, Mike Eastman, Matt Gustafson, Todd Janigo, Kevin Johnson, Greg Nelson, Erik Olson, Kent Paulson, Dave Paulus, Mark Pocernich, Shane Sedin, Nathan Tepoel, Eric Trautt and Brian Witt. … The Tigers attempted an NFL-distance field goal in the final minute of the second quarter. It was a 58-yard attempt for Jordan Orme, but his kick came up short and to the right. “If he had been with the wind, that would have been good,” Scherz said. In practice, Scherz said, he’s seen Orme hit a field goal from 60 yards. Orme finished Friday’s game 6-for-6 on extra-point attempts. … Graskey had an interception for Northwestern with 4.8 seconds remaining in the second quarter. He left the game in the second half with a toe injury, but Scherz said he expects the senior to be fine. Tuura is likely to be out with a broken collarbone.
Northwestern 21 7 7 13 — 48
Ladysmith 0 0 6 16 — 22
N — Micah Goetsch 8-yard run (Jordan Orme kick), 6:10
N — Nate Pearson 50-yard run (Orme kick), 3:16.
N — Luke Freeman 26-yard pass to Mitch Graskey (Orme kick), 1:12.
N — Pearson 7-yard run (Orme kick), 3:46.
L — Lucas Weisenberger 15-yard pass to Matthew Ollinger (run failed), 4:49.
N — Pearson 8-yard run (Orme kick), 0:08.
L — Preston Larson four yard run (Larson run), 10:40.
N — Freeman 36-yard pass to Goetsch (Orme kick), 8:17.
N — Justin Little 4-yard run (pass failed), 2:11.
L — Larson 4-yard run (Ethan Gunderson pass to Justin Zahurones), 1:08.
First downs 22 18
Rushing yards 337 156
Passing completions-attempts 5-6 14-20
Passing yards 116 205
Touchdowns-interceptions 2-1 1-2
Total plays 51 59
Total offense 453 361
Fumbles-lost 1-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 1-10 7-65
Time of poss. 26:36 21:24
Heart O’ North Conference
Bloomer (3-1) 2-0
Spooner (3-1) 2-0
Northwestern (3-1) 1-1
Chetek-Weyerhaeuser (3-1) 1-1
Cumberland (2-2) 1-1
Hayward/Lac Courte Oreilles (1-3) 1-1
Barron (1-3) 0-2
Ladysmith (0-4) 0-2
Friday, Sept. 13
Spooner 35, Barron 6
Bloomer 7, Chetek-Weyerhaeuser 6
Cumberland 40, Hayward 21
Northwestern 48, Ladysmith 22
Friday, Sept. 20
Barron at Ladysmith, 7 p.m.
Northwestern at Hayward, 7 p.m.
Chetek-Weyerhaeuser at Spooner, 7 p.m.
Cumberland at Bloomer, 7 p.m.