Football season ends in Bigfork

Talented Huskies dominate; Wolves finish abbreviated year at 3-3

by Tom Coombe
There was no dramatic finish or rousing victory. Instead, Ely’s high school football season ended on the cold turf in Bigfork Tuesday night with the host Huskies scoring a dominant 52-6 playoff win.
Yet that the Wolves played at all, and finished a season as odd in any in school history, provided memories nonetheless.
Ely finished the season 3-3, with an opening round defeat in the Section 7 9-Man playoffs and the program’s first winning regular season since 2017.
The Wolves also got to play, albeit a bit late, this fall in spite of the COVID-19 pandemic. That may have been the biggest victory at all, given the times, and head coach Cory Lassi offered some perspective after Tuesday’s defeat.
“I ’m glad we were able to get the team on the field,” said Lassi, who completed his third season at the helm. “ I’m also proud of how they handled the circumstances. They never complained about the situation, temp checks, masks, only four in the locker room at a time. They were thankful to be playing and took it seriously to keep their season going “
In mid-September, Lassi and the rest of the Wolves were looking to a season that was set to take place in the spring because of the pandemic.
But the Minnesota State High School League had a sudden change of heart, and the reversal sent the Wolves and the rest of the teams around the state into gear.
Practices began in late-September, about six weeks later than usual, and a six-game regular season schedule was hastily assembled and began Oct. 9.
The Wolves, who went just 2-7 a year earlier, were boosted by an increase in turnout and recorded wins over Cook County, Northeast Range and Lake of the Woods during an abbreviated regular season that was disrupted both by virus-related postponements and the early arrival of winter weather.
“Overall finishing with a 3-3 record, we were happy,” said Lassi. “We had a chance to play in some exciting, competitive games which will help them grow as football players and young men.”
Bigfork (4-2) didn’t play like a number-four seed in their matchup with the fifth-seeded Wolves.
The Huskies scored five first-half touchdowns, all on runs of 30 yards or more, en route to a 38-0 lead that decided matters early.
Mankin Wilde, who had three touchdowns, broke free for the first of his three scores, on a 55-yard sweep five minutes into the game.
Penalties plagued the Ely offense early on, but the defense held firm for awhile.
Ely recovered a fumble to thwart a Bigfork drive inside the 10-yard line, but the Wolves managed only one first down in the opening half.
Bigfork forced a punt after the Wolves failed to capitalize on the turnover, and the hosts turned good field position into a quick score. Jackson Lovdahl broke free for a 30-yard run and it was 14-0.
The rout was then on, as quarterback Caden Kallinen scored twice on the option within a two-minute span, galloping 31 and 56 yards to tack on more points.
Ely turned the ball over late in the first half and the Huskies added the dagger - a 34-yard Wilde run that gave Bigfork a 38-point halftime bulge.
It was too much to overcome for the Wolves, who lost two linemen to injury prior to the game and lost a third when senior Adam Williamson got hurt early in the contest.
Bigfork’s line and speed proved to be a lethal combination for the Wolves.
“Bigfork came out very physical,” said Lassi. “We had a difficult time matching their physicality and intensity. We knew they were going to be a tough nosed team and we struggled up front.”
• The Wolves picked up their third win of the year on a snowy afternoon in Baudette, prevailing 20-14 over Lake of the Woods on an 18-degree day.
Junior Harry Simons had his best day in an Ely uniform, finishing with three touchdowns and rushing for over 100 yards.
Jason Kerntz, a sophomore, also topped the 100-yard mark and had a team-high 12 tackles.
Ely took advantage of good field position and a fumble recovery by Lane Anderson at the Bears’ 25, with Simons finishing a short drive with a one-yard touchdown run in the first quarter.
On Ely’s next possession, Simons broke free on a 70-yard touchdown run and the Wolves seemed in command.
A penalty nullified a 65-yard gain by Kerntz late in the quarter and the Wolves soon turned the ball over, allowing the Bears to trim the lead in half.
Ely came up empty in Bears territory late in the second quarter but got a valuable insurance score in the third as Simons scored on a 10-yard run.
It was 20-6, but the lead didn’t last long as Lake of the Woods responded with a 65-yard kickoff return that trimmed the gap back to six points.
LOW never seriously threatened to tie the game, and Ely ran out the clock to preserve the win.
Quarterback Mason Davis passed for 57 yards for the game and Eddie Prijatel finished with 32 yards on the ground and a team-high nine tackles.
Anderson was next with seven tackles, while Simons was in on six, with Alec Cook, Brock LaTourell and Riley Bishop recording five stops each. Sophomore Erron Anderson finished with four tackles.