Wolves home for playoffs

by Tom Coombe

Thanks to a late-season surge, the Ely Timberwolves will host a playoff game for the first time since 1998.<BR><BR>The high school football team picked off two wins in six days - including Wednesday’s 20-6 decision at Silver Bay - to finish the regular season at 4-4 and earn the fourth seed in the eight-team Section 7AA playoffs.<BR><BR>That means the Wolves will meet number-five Duluth Marshall (3-5), at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Ely School Stadium.<BR><BR>The Wolves, who started 1-3, needed a win at Silver Bay and a Marshall loss to Deer River to move into the fourth and final home slot. They got both - using field position and a strong running game to top the Mariners and finding out shortly after leaving the field that Deer River rallied for a late touchdown to top Marshall 40-37.<BR><BR>“The stars were aligned in our favor,” said Ely Head Coach Darren Visser. “One of our goals at the start the season was the push for the conference championship and the other was to get home field. We didn’t reach one but we got the other and I think right now that really gives us a boost.”<BR><BR>Silver Bay outgained the Wolves 322-276, but the Mariners were hurt by 10 penalties, a pair of turnovers and bad field position.<BR><BR>“I think field position was a big difference,” said Visser. “Every time that Silver Bay had to try and make a drive it was 70-yards plus.”<BR><BR>Ely, which got a team-high 131 yards from running back Mike Krunkkala, moved 89 yards on 16 plays to open the game.<BR><BR>Krunkkala had 56 yards on that push alone, and quarterback Tim Scott scored on a four-yard run to put Ely ahead.<BR><BR>Scott, who threw for 101 yards, had a critical third-and-10 completion to Mike Popesh early in the drive.<BR><BR>Ely added the two-point conversion to make it 8-0, then held off the Mariners, who answered with a threat of their own.<BR><BR>Silver Bay pushed the ball inside the Ely 10 before turning it over on downs.<BR><BR>Ely also had another scoring threat before halftime, but Scott was stopped at the Mariner 10 on fourth-and-one.<BR><BR>The Mariners nearly tied the game in the third quarter. <BR><BR>Running back Logan Fisher ran off tackle on third down, evaded a tackle and raced through the Ely defense, winding up in the end zone on a 63-yard scoring run.<BR><BR>The hosts were flagged for an illegal forward pass on the conversion attempt, allowing Ely to maintain the slim two-point lead.<BR><BR>That rejuvenated the Wolves’ offense, which got key passes from Scott to Popesh and Mike Fenn on a 62-yard drive.<BR><BR>On the first play of the fourth quarter, Scott completed a three-yard touchdown pass to Steve Milkovich.<BR><BR>From there, Ely’s defense took over.<BR><BR>Scott had an interception and the Wolves forced a fumble.<BR><BR>Krunkkala finished the night with an eight-yard touchdown run with two minutes to go.<BR><BR>Scott completed seven-of-12 passes for the Wolves, while Krunkkala got the bulk of Ely’s rushing yards.<BR><BR>The winner of Tuesday’s game between the Wolves and Duluth Marshall advances to play top-seed Esko (8-0), at Esko, in Saturday’s 7AA semifinals.<BR><BR>The section title game is Nov. 5 at Duluth.