Wolves explode for 41 against Carlton

by Tom Coombe

Ely’s high school football team broke out of an early-season scoring slump in style, racking up 41 points and hammering Carlton for Ely's first win of the fall.<BR><BR>The Timberwolves’ 41-15 blowout of the winless Bulldogs was even more lopsided than the final score indicated.<BR><BR>Ely scored 35 unanswered points from late in the first quarter until early in the fourth, and the hosts’ second and third stringers saw extensive action in the final stanza of the Sept. 17 game at Ely Stadium.<BR><BR>After a first period score, Carlton didn’t reach the end zone again until the final two minutes of the contest.<BR><BR>Held to one score in the first two weeks of the year, losses to Greenway and Cook County, the Wolves gained both a badly-needed win and maybe some further confidence for the rest of the campaign, according to head coach Darren Visser.<BR><BR>“It was better, but we also have to look at the fact that Carlton is not the caliber of team of Greenway or Cook County,” said Visser. “But we needed that confidence from having a good, solid offensive game.”<BR><BR>Senior Tim Scott threw for a touchdown, ran for another and returned a punt 94 yards for a third.<BR><BR>The Wolves scored on sustained drives, special teams and with quick strike precision.<BR><BR>Ely’s Mike Krunkkala broke away for a 66-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, on the way to a 107-yard effort.<BR><BR>The Wolves averaged only 18 yards on the ground the first two weeks, but chewed up nearly 200 against the Bulldogs.<BR><BR>“In two games we only had about 40 yards and one run more than equalled that,” said Visser. “He (Krunkkala) ran the ball real well.”<BR><BR>Krunkkala and junior Ernie Horvat combined to lead the Ely running attack, and senior A.J. Johnson had a 23-yard touchdown bolt late in the contest.<BR><BR>Scott completed three-of-eight passes, all in the first half.<BR><BR>The game had the makings of a shootout early on, but the Wolves’ defense quickly settled in and stymied Carlton.<BR><BR>Krunkkala’s touchdown put Ely on top 6-0, but Carlton came back on the next possession to take the lead.<BR><BR>On fourth-and-nine from the Ely 44, Bulldogs receiver Jake Rychlak got behind the Ely secondary and quarterback Jake Davis found him.<BR><BR>Rychlak hauled in the throw at the five and reached the end zone, and the Bulldogs’ Jamie Fast added the extra-point kick for a 7-6 Carlton advantage.<BR><BR>The visitors’ lead wouldn’t last.<BR><BR>Ely marched right back down the field. A Scott-to-Mike Popesh completion gave the Wolves the ball at the Carlton 35.<BR><BR>Five plays later, Scott rolled right, and the southpaw threw across his body and fired to Popesh in the end zone.<BR><BR>The 16-yard scoring strike gave Ely the lead to stay.<BR><BR>In the second quarter, Ely’s special teams set up another score.<BR><BR>Senior Kevin Hartshorn broke through and blocked a punt. Teammate Luke Spangler recovered at the one, and Scott scored on the next play. The one-yard quarterback keep and the ensuing two-point conversion made it 22-7 at the half.<BR><BR>Special teams struck again in the third quarter.<BR><BR>Scott opted to field a punt inside the Ely 10. The Bulldogs overpursued and the speedy senior found a path down the Ely sideline.<BR><BR>In a matter of seconds, Scott had a 94-yard touchdown return and the Wolves were up 28-7.<BR><BR>“That’s two games now where we’ve scored off special teams (Steve Milkovich returned a kickoff for a score against Cook County),” said Visser. “The punt return sealed it, and then to block a punt and get the ball at the one, basically we had two scores off our special teams.”<BR><BR>Krunkkala added his second touchdown in the third quarter, and after a Carlton turnover, Johnson completed the scoring with his touchdown run.<BR><BR>Ely outgained Carlton 283-190.<BR><BR>Rychlak led the Bulldogs with two catches for 67 yards, although the Carlton freshman gave his teammates, coaches and the entire crowd at the stadium a scare when he was injured in the third quarter.<BR><BR>The game was delayed for several minutes as medical personnel examined him on the field. Rychlak was taken off the field by stretcher and taken by ambulance to Ely-Bloomenson Community Hospital. He suffered a bruised bone on his right arm.<BR><BR>The Wolves took their momentum from the Polar Conference game into Nashwauk, where they meet the unbeaten Nashwauk-Keewatin Spartans Friday night.<BR><BR>“We’re going to have to continue to improve with our blocking and our secondary got caught a few times (against Carlton),” said Visser. “But if we keep improving, we’ll have a chance.”<BR><BR>