Tigers drop second straight gameMAPLE — The Northwestern Tigers have their backs to a wall following a 20-7 loss to Barron Friday night. The Tigers have qualified for the playoffs four years in a row, but with a 2-3 record in the Heart O’ North Conference, they now need victories in their two remaining games to make the playoffs.
By: Emily Kram, Superior Telegram
MAPLE — The Northwestern Tigers have their backs to a wall following a 20-7 loss to the Barron Golden Bears Friday night at Tiger Stadium.
The Tigers have qualified for the playoffs four years in a row, but with a 2-3 record in the Heart O’ North Conference they now need victories in their two remaining games to make the playoffs.
Barron (4-3, 3-2) has a slightly easier road, needing only one victory in its final two games.
“Going up against a historically great program like this and pulling out a W is great,” said Barron’s first-year head coach Trent Nelson. “It’s a great win for the Barron football program. It’s one step forward to playoffs, because that’s our goal.”
Barron held Northwestern to just 225 yards of total offense and recovered four Tiger fumbles.
Two of those fumbles set up scoring drives for the Golden Bears.
“We shot ourselves in the foot,” NHS coach Dennis Scherz said.
Northwestern has struggled for the past two weeks since losing center Elias Alexandrou to an injury. The offense has sputtered without the senior lineman, and that was the case again Friday night against Barron.
Northwestern went three-and-out on its first possession and punted on its next two drives as well.
“We lost our center, our key to our offense,” Scherz said. “When we had our full team we could move the ball. Elias is a big part of what we do.”
Barron took over at the Northwestern 41 after the Tigers’ third punt and picked up a first down with a 14-yard pass from Rece Dietrich to Justin Doriott on the first play. Isaiah Secrest picked up 17 more yards with a run around the right side on the next play, and he finished the three-play drive with a 10-yard touchdown run at8:28 in the second quarter.
Micah Goetsch got an arm up to block the extra-point attempt, and the score remained 6-0 at halftime.
The second half began with a nice defensive effort from Northwestern. Barron advanced to the Tiger 33 but then lost yardage on two consecutive plays.
Trevor Guenard hauled down Secrest for a loss to start the defensive stand. Jay Karich followed with a sack to put the Golden Bears back to the 43, and Barron turned the ball over on downs two plays later.
The Bears then regained possession when Northwestern fumbled on its opening play and Dietrich recovered the ball at the Tiger 32. Barron needed five minutes to add to its lead, converting twice on fourth downs on the way to a 22-yard touchdown pass from Dietrich to Jason Balts.
Three of the Tigers’ five possessions in the second half ended in a fumble, and both of Barron’s second-half touchdowns came after a Northwestern fumble.
“You’ve got to hold on to the ball,” Scherz said. “Even our veteran younger players are having a difficult time. They’re trying to do more; I think that’s part of it. They’re trying to break that long run, and sometimes that leaves you susceptible to fumble the ball.”
Northwestern’s lone touchdown came at 7:53 in the fourth quarter on a 14-yard pass from Luke Freeman to Mitch Graskey. The Tigers went 57 yards on the drive, picking up first downs on an 11-yard catch by Goetsch and a penalty against the Golden Bears.
The Tigers forced Barron to punt on its ensuing possession, but another fumble on Northwestern’s first play gave the Golden Bears possession at the Tiger 13 to set up another touchdown.
“It wasn’t the prettiest win, but we came out with a win,” Nelson said.
“Justin Allen, our middle linebacker, played the game of his life. He was in the backfield I don’t know how many times making tackles, getting fumbles, causing fumbles; and it’s not just one person, it’s a whole defensive effort.”
Freeman finished the night going 4-of-6 for 43 yards passing and one touchdown. Nate Peterson had 93 yards rushing, and Goetsch added 84.
On defense, Guenard came up with an interception at 4:06 in the second quarter, and Karich and Alex Tecker both had sacks.
“Our defense played great. Our defense gave our offense a chance to win,” Scherz said. “Our offense, due to fumbles and turnovers and mental mistakes, put us in a hole.”
TIGER TALES: The Golden Bears’ victory marked the first time Barron had defeated Northwestern at the Gordon L. Nelson Athletic Complex since it opened in 2008. Barron’s last victory in Maple came in 2006. ... Barron now holds a three-game winning streak against the Tigers. Barron has won the past three match-ups, outscoring Northwestern 97-61.
Barron 0 6 6 8 — 20
Northwestern 0 0 0 7 — 7
B — Isaiah Secrest 10-yard run (kick blocked), 8:28.
B — Jason Balts 22-yard pass from Rece Dietrich (pass failed), 3:20.
N — Mitch Graskey 14-yard pass from Luke Freeman (Jordan Orme kick), 7:53.
B — Secrest 1-yard run (Balts pass from Dietrich), 1:38.