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Published November 04 2011

Warriors get revenge, beat Nuggets 14-7 and advance to state

FARGO – Just think: The Warroad football team did in two weeks what no one else could do all season.

First, it was beating Barnesville. Then on Friday, it was beating Hawley. Warroad certainly capped one of the more surprising runs in Minnesota with a 14-7 win over Hawley in the Minnesota Class 2A, Section 8 final at the Fargodome.

“It feels awesome,” said Warriors defensive end Robert Laznicka, who helped create one of Hawley’s four turnovers. “It is the best feeling I think I’ve ever had.”

Surely, it feels good to the folks up in Warroad. Their Warriors are in the state tournament for the first time since 1992, when most of this year’s team hadn’t even been born yet.

Warroad gets Paynesville to open the state tournament next Friday in Morris.

Maybe next week no one will question if Warroad’s defense can withstand a tough test.

The Warriors (8-2) couldn’t stop the Nuggets (11-1) on a single possession a couple weeks ago in a 55-48 loss.

Since then, Warroad has been on a roll. A week ago, it deflated the monster that was Barnesville in a 21-20 win.

On Friday, if it wasn’t for Nuggets quarterback Hunter Lawson breaking off a 53-yard run to set up a touchdown, the Warriors practically played flawless defense.

“They knew where we were going to be,” said Hawley coach Peder Naatz. “It felt like they knew where to be a lot of the time.”

Warroad overcame the Hawley first quarter touchdown to score in the second and third for a 14-7 lead.

It was enough for the defense. Warroad’s massive defensive line went from a three- to five-man front several times resulting in Hawley fumbling the ball four times.

Warroad had one recovery and in the second half had forced four turnovers altogether, including three picks.

One of them belonged to Laznicka.

“I stayed at home, and when I heard my teammates yell, ‘Screen! Screen!’ I knew something could happen,” he said. “Then when it came my way, it was one of those, ‘Oh my God, it really is coming to me’ kind of things.”

Warriors coach Gabe Richards said his defense wanted to prove a point following the last time it faced Hawley.

Some of those feelings also go back to last season.

Hawley whitewashed Warroad to open the playoffs with a 34-0 loss in a game more remembered for near blizzard-like conditions.

This time, like The Empire, the Warriors – black helmets in all – certainly struck back.

“At the end of the last game, I asked our kids a question,” Richards said. “I asked them, ‘Did they want another chance at Hawley?’ All of them were chomping at the bit.”

Warroad did more than “champ at the bit” to say the least.

Against two previously defeated teams – Barnesville and Hawley – they took a massive bite out of the two teams many had expected to reach the state tournament.

Richards said a week ago a Barnesville-Hawley section final might have been what others wanted, but it wasn’t his dream.

Instead, he just made his team’s dreams another team’s nightmare.

H 7 0 0 0– 7

W 0 6 8 0–14

H – Pekas 14 run (Arens kick)

W – Sandahl 8 pass from Merriman (kick failed)

W – Merriman 19 run (Peterson catch)


RUSHING: W, Haajata 22-85, Merriman 13-6, Magnuson 1-3. H, Lawson 11-58, Ames 11-46, B. Pekas 5-28, Buttke 1-3, Burns 12-36, Bjorndahl 1-2

PASSING: W, Merriman 6-12-1 120 yards. H, Lawson 3-11-0 32 yards

RECEIVING: W, Peterson 1-10, Hansen 3-30, Sandahl 3-80. H, Burns 3-32.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Ryan S. Clark at (701) 241-5548.

Clark’s Force blog can be found at slightlychilled.areavoices.com