KYLE KNAEBLE chases down North Branch quarterback Tony Denn in the fourth quarter Wednesday. Big Lake’s defense forced five turnovers in the 27-7 win. (Photo by Ken Francis.)

Hornets stop Vikings, 27-7

Staff Writer
Ken Francis


The Big Lake football team won its second game of the season Wednesday, dominating North Branch at home, 27-7.
The Hornets played well on both ends of the field and took advantage of multiple turnovers to hold the Vikings at bay.
Big Lake got off to a quick start, scoring on its first possession of the game. Quarterback Tyler Halverson used his legs to gain a first down at the 44-yard line, then scrambled away from a swarm of defenders and hit Kyle Wakefield for 18 yards for another fist down. Two plays later, Halverson connected with Austin Poe at the North Branch 25, where he eluded two tackles and raced to the end zone for a 7-0 lead with 8:45 left in the first quarter.
The Vikings had good field position after a long runback on the ensuing kickoff. But on a third down play at the Big Lake 35, the defense stripped the ball and Reid Ramsdell recovered the fumble.
North Branch tied the game on its next possession, marching down the field on short running plays, then scoring on a quarterback keeper from 31 yards out with 45 seconds left in the quarter. That would be the biggest play the defense allowed all night.
The Hornets scored again after a turnover - this time a fumble recovery by Tyler Otto at the North Branch 47 with 11:35 left in the first half. Big Lake overcame three costly penalties on the drive.  Halverson hit Connor Johnson for 16 yards, then ran twice to reach the 16. Then he fired two bullets to Poe, the last one a six-yarder for a TD and a 14-7 lead with 4:54 in the half.
Big Lake had one more chance to put points on the board before the half. With two minutes left, they put together a drive that started on the Hornet seven and reached mid-field. But a sack with 13 seconds left  slowed the drive.  Then Halverson scrambled for 27 yards to the Viking 17, but the half ended on the play.
The Hornet defense came out strong in the second half, stopping the Vikings at the Big Lake 39 after three plays. Then Poe deflected a punt and Tristin Johnson returned it to the 43. Halverson followed with short passes to AJ Sandford and Connor Johnson before connecting with Poe for 22 yards. A late hit penalty moved the ball to the North Branch 11 and after a holding penalty pushed the Hornets back 10 yards, Halverson found  Wakefield on the left sideline. He fought off a tackle and reached the end zone for a TD and a 21-7 lead with 7:33 in the quarter.
Big Lake scored again after another turnover. Tanner Snare pounced on a fumble at the North Branch 27-yard line on the next series. On first down, Halverson lobbed a pass into the end zone where Poe outjumped a defender for his third TD of the game. The conversion was blocked, and the Hornets led, 27-7 with 5:48 left in the quarter.
There was still time for the Vikings to get back in the game, but the Hornet defense was up to the task. Tristin Johnson ended one North Branch drive with an interception at the Big Lake 26. Then he recovered a fumble at the Big Lake 32 with 1:25 left in the quarter.
The Vikings had one more drive that could have reached the end zone, moving the ball from their 18 with just under 10 minutes left in the game. But the Hornet defense stopped a fourth-down running play at the eight-yard line, and that was all for North Branch.
The Hornets finished the regular season 2-6 along with Zimmerman, who lost 43-23 to Albany Wednesday. Big Lake will host the Thunder at 7 p.m. Tuesday in the opening round of the Section 5AAAA playoffs. The winner plays at Delano (7-1) Saturday (Oct. 26) at 3 p.m.
In other section games, Mound Westonka (1-7) plays at Orono (6-2) Tuesday. The winner plays at Becker (7-1) Saturday.


Mike Zdychnec, Executive Program Director for Healthcare Management at MN School of Business. (Photo by Ken Francis.)

JEN SCHUMACHER (far left), applauds as 15-year-old Matthew Trutna wins the 2015 Team Liam 5K Saturday. (Photos by Jennifer Edwards).

Kathleen R. Huber

DANCERS FROM JENNIFER’S DANCE CENTER will be performing at Disney World in Florida in October. Pictured (front row, left to right), are Grace Esselman, Lillian St. Jean, Sophia Gerou, Kailey Buchta, Rowan Payne and Hannah Oakes. Middle row are Amelia Cameron, Brianna Anthony, Jacqie Bengtson, Gianna Mitchell, Alex Dillion, Abby Yanke and Rose Curtis. Back row are Tori Ramert, Alexis Erickson, Sophia St. Ives, Tiana Link, Rachel Royseth, Kristian Kunkel, Brooklynn Bengtson, Nicole Bengtson and Kendall Luoma. Not pictured are Haylee Oakes and Melanie Miskowic. (Submitted photo).

FIVE GIRLS FROM MARY OF THE VISITATION CHURCH’S YOUTH GROUP helped Gail Stanley (not pictured) of Big Lake pack her belongings for a move she was taking to Princeton last weekend. The girls are (from left to right): Bridget Buchholz, Jasmine Johnson, Michaela Manifold, Brittney Kostek and Josie Berger. (Photo by Bill Morgan)
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