Cook County holds off Wolves’ charge

by Tom Coombe

A late rally fell just short as the Ely Timberwolves lost for the second time in as many games.<BR><BR>Cook County held off the high school football team down the stretch and won the Sept. 10 game 14-6, spoiling the high school football team’s home debut.<BR><BR>Ely’s offense sputtered for most of the contest but junior Steve Milkovich gave his team - as well as most in a crowd of about 550 fans at Ely School Stadium - a second-half jolt.<BR><BR>Milkovich’s 82-yard kickoff return put the Timberwolves on the board and ignited hopes for a comeback.<BR><BR>The Ely defense stiffened in the final quarter, but the hosts couldn’t capitalize on three separate chances to score.<BR><BR>Their best opportunity ended midway through the fourth quarter. Quarterback Tim Scott completed a long pass to senior end Mike Popesh down the middle, but a Cook County defender jarred the ball loose, allowing the Vikings’ Andy Borud to recover at the Cook County 15.<BR><BR>Earlier in the quarter, Ely drove to the Cook County 40 before turning it over on downs.<BR><BR>And the Wolves had a last-ditch drive in the closing seconds.<BR><BR>A 30-yard completion from Scott to Ernie Horvat brought the Wolves to the Cook County 35 with just seven seconds left, but Scott was sacked at midfield on the final play of the game.<BR><BR>“We had too many missed opportunities,” said Ely Head Coach Darren Visser. “I thought after going through the film that we had four missed opportunities that we should have had at least a couple of touchdowns out of.”<BR><BR>But despite the defeat, the Wolves made progress after a season-opening 21-0 loss to Greenway.<BR><BR>A defense that yielded almost nine yards per rush against the Raiders had a much better outing, holding Cook County to just over three yards per play.<BR><BR>“I was very happy with our defensive performance,” said Visser. “I thought we took a huge step on that side of the ball.”<BR><BR>The Wolves’ offense misfired much of the night - largely because they were stymied in their attempts to run the ball.<BR><BR>Ely rushed for only 13 net yards, although Scott had another solid game through the air, completing 10 passes for 139 yards.<BR><BR>“Our pass blocking was excellent, to only give up one sack late in the game when we threw the ball 20 times,” said Visser. “Our blocking on running plays is still a sore spot.”<BR><BR>Ely was held to 45 yards and had only three first downs in the opening half.<BR><BR>Cook County got the only touchdown in the half on a two-yard run by Steve Bonin.<BR><BR>The Vikings had field position for much of the half, aided in part when they stopped the Wolves on a fake punt at midfield.<BR><BR> Sophomore back Brandon Donek, who rushed for 81 yards, had carries of 11 and seven yards on the drive that led to the Vikings’ touchdown.<BR><BR>Cook County drove 61 yards in the third quarter to make it 14-0, with Donek plunging in from three yards out.<BR><BR>The Vikings then led 14-0, but Milkovich would get Ely right back in the game. On the ensuing kickoff, he took the ball on a reverse from Ernie Horvat, picked up some blocks and sprinted to the end zone. <BR><BR>“It was nice to see that work,” said Visser. “It was all set up on the fake and Milkovich and Horvat ran that well. ‘Milko’ came around and got a little bit of a crack and he was gone.”<BR><BR>But that would be it for the Wolves on the scoreboard, as they couldn’t cash in on their final quarter chances.<BR><BR>Popesh was Scott’s favorite target. He caught four passes for 75 yards. Horvat had three receptions for 45 yards, while Luke Spangler, Milkovich and Mike Krunkkala all had receptions.<BR><BR>Horvat ran for 16 yards on five carries and Krunkkala had four rushes for 15 yards.<BR><BR>Ely had three turnovers, including two fumbles and an interception.<BR><BR>The Wolves met Carlton Friday night, after the Echo’s deadline.<BR><BR>This week, they have a Polar Conference game at Nashwauk-Keewatin, the state’s top-ranked Class A team.