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.


MEMBERS OF THE BIG LAKE HIGH SCHOOL CHAMBER CHOIR performed for the school board at the beginning of their last meeting. The Chamber Choir members are selected for their skills from among their peers. They were directed by Mary Ebanks. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

DARLENE LANZ grew up just east of town and has lived in or around Big Lake all her life. She recalls what Christmas was like in Big Lake back then. (Photo by Jennifer Edwards).

SHERBURNE COUNTY ATTORNEY Kathleen Heaney, taking over as MCAA President. (Submitted photo.)

Cheryl Turck and Corey Mabis of the Sherburne County Probation Dept. (Photo by Ken Francis.)

SANTA AND HIS HELPERS prepared to give out toys to 111 families at the Food Shelf Monday. The toys were all donated by one local merchant. (Photo by Ken Francis.)