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Louie St. George III / Forum News Service, Published November 14 2013

Underwood reaches Minnesota 9-man football championship game

MINNEAPOLIS – A mere 75 seconds changed the complexion of Thursday’s playoff football game between Underwood and Ely at the Metrodome.

Underwood stunned Ely with a pair of lightning-quick second-quarter touchdowns, and the Rockets hung on to nab a 34-20 victory in the semifinals of the Minnesota 9-man state playoffs.

The Rockets advance to the Nov. 29 title game.

“What a great win for the Underwood community,” Rockets head coach Chuck Ross said.

With the game tied at 7 apiece late in the first half, Underwood forced a three-and-out. Adam Creek, who did a little bit of everything for the Rockets, returned the ensuing punt 50 yards to the Timberwolves’ 4-yard line. Bruising fullback Matt Biegler rumbled in from there to make it 14-7 with 1 minute, 15 seconds to play before the break.

An Ely fumble moments later on the subsequent kickoff gave Underwood (10-3) the ball deep in Ely territory. The state’s leading rusher, Noah Thompson, then produced his second TD of the game with a 13-yard scamper that put an exclamation point on the Rockets’ 21-point period and sent them into the locker room with a 14-point lead.

Just like that, the Timberwolves (12-1) were forced to play catch-up, unfamiliar turf for a squad that was so dominant this season while averaging better than 43 points per contest.

“That’s football – I’m not putting no blame on anybody,” Ely coach Brian Lamppa said. “That’s just part of the game. We made a couple mistakes and it cost us, but we didn’t quit. We came back, we got ourselves back in the game, and we were one play short of tying the game.”

Creek said the rapid-fire turnaround gave the Rockets a much-needed jolt.

“They weren’t just going to lay down for us, so that was really important,” said Creek. “It gave us a little more confidence going into the second half.”

Thompson, who missed most of the fourth quarter with a deep bruise in his bicep, finished with 183 yards and three touchdowns a week after running 47 times for 294 yards in a quarterfinal win over Nicollet. The little Rocket – he’s just 5-foot-7 and 157 pounds – answered Louie Gerzin’s 75-yard TD run with a 25-yarder of his own late in the third quarter that pushed Underwood’s lead to 27-14.

Ross is optimistic that Thompson will be able to play in the championship. Kittson County Central faces Grand Meadow at 9 a.m. today in the other

9-man semifinal.

“The great thing is we got two weeks to get him healed up,” Ross said.

E 7 0 7 6–20

U 0 21 6 7–34

E–Heiman 28 run (Inomata kick)

U–Thompson 6 run (Hauge kick)

U–Biegler 4 run (Hauge kick)

U–Thompson 13 run (Hauge kick)

E–Gerzin 75 run (Inomata kick)

U–Thompson 25 run (kick failed)

E–Lah 15 pass from Jordan (kick failed)

U–Kalanze 13 run (Hauge kick)

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: E, Gerzin 25-157, Heiman 7-51, Jordan 4-19, Conaway 1-2. U, Thompson 31-183, Creek 15-117, Biegler 13-40, Kalenze 7-36, Werner 1-(minus-4).

PASSING: E, Jordan 10-15-1 99 yards, Gerzin 0-1-0 0. U, Creek 1-4-1 (minus-1).

RECEIVING: E, Heiman 5-26, Lah 2-54, Gerzin 1-10, Gaulke 1-9, Shcreffler 1-0. U, Biegler 1-(minus-1).


St. George writes for the Duluth News Tribune


The Forum’s Hayden Goethe contributed to this story