Coughlins, Thomas honored

by Tom Coombe
An unbeaten season resulted in a conference championship for Ely’s high school volleyball team, and all-conference recognition for three Timberwolves.
Senior McKenna Coughlin, junior Kellen Thomas and sophomore Rachel Coughlin all won spots on the All-Arrowhead Conference Team, as selected by league coaches.
The recognition comes on the heels of the program’s first-ever unbeaten season, a campaign that was cut short because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the program’s first Arrowhead Conference title.
McKenna Coughlin played a key role in that success. The Wolves’ only returning starter from teams that reached the Section 7A final four the previous two years, she led in many ways and topped the Wolves in several statistical categories including kills (144), digs (85) and ace serves (35).
The senior averaged better than 10 kills per game and was one of the top hitters in all of Section 7A.


Wognum wins 7A coaching award

Ely’s Megan Wognum has been named Section 7A Assistant Coach of the Year in volleyball.
The acclaim came last week as the Minnesota State High School Volleyball Coaches Association announced award winners across the state.
Wognum, who has been assistant coach in Ely for five seasons, was part of one of the most unique and successful seasons in Timberwolves volleyball history.
The 2020 campaign started late and was interrupted before its conclusion because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the Wolves went 12-0 and completed what’s believed to be the only perfect varsity season in school history.
Wognum aided head coach Andrea Thomas with the varsity and also coached Ely’s junior varsity team to an 11-1 record.


Youth sports set to resume Jan. 4

by Nick Wognum
It was a good news/bad news week for high school athletes in Ely and across the state.
While Gov. Tim Walz extended what began as a four-week pause that halted all high school and youth sports in Minnesota, an announcement on Wednesday offered some light at the end of a long tunnel.
In an executive order signed the same day, Walz cleared the way for sports practices to begin Jan. 4.
Within minutes of the announcement, the Minnesota State High School League made news of its own - indicating that practices for all winter high school sports would begin on that date.
Much remains unsettled, including a firm date that games and meets will begin, but the developments breathe new life into sports seasons that have been dormant for several weeks.
Practices for winter sports were slated to begin in mid-to-late November, depending on the activity, but Walz put those on ice amid rising COVID-19 case counts, hospitalizations and deaths.


Three from Ely named to All-District team

by Tom Coombe
Ely’s high school football season has been capped with individual honors for three Timberwolves.
Senior Lane Anderson, junior Eddie Prijatel and sophomore Jason Kerntz were all named to the All-District Team, as selected by district coaches.
The recognition comes on the heels of a winning regular season for the Wolves, their first since 1987.
Anderson, a multiyear starter, played a key role in that success.
The 250-pounder anchored the offensive and defensive lines and came up with 39 tackles, second-most on the team.
Ely also utilized Anderson as a running back out of its “Heavy Jumbo” set, and he delivered, amassing 178 rushing yards and plowing into the end zone a team-high five times
Prijatel was a two-way starter for the Wolves and helped anchor the Ely defense, leading the team with 59 tackles for the season. He also started at running back and picked up 131 yards on the ground.


Lassi steps away from sidelines Ely

by Tom Coombe
For 11 seasons, Cory Lassi has been the common denominator when it came to Ely Timberwolves football.
But that will change in 2021, after Lassi’s announcement last week that he is stepping down from his post as high school football coach.
Lassi spent the last three years leading the Wolves and was an assistant for eight years prior to that, playing a key role in a resurgence of the football program including four state tournament berths in a six-year run.
The 2004 Ely High School graduate is moving on from coaching, at least for now, to spend more time with his family, including a daughter due to be born this week.
“My number one job right now is being here for my family and I want to make sure I am,” said Lassi.
A former Timberwolf football standout, Lassi joined the football coaching staff in 2010 and guided the defense.


Football season ends in Bigfork

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.


Schedule in pencil for unbeaten Ely

by Tom Coombe
For the Ely Timberwolves, scheduling has at instances been literally one day at a time.
Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the high school volleyball team has already dealt with a rash of postponements, cancelled or moved dates and substitute opponents, as well as a long layoff.
Friday night, the unbeaten Wolves were set to travel to Carlton for their first match in eight days, and to kick off a late-season stretch that will include six matches in a span of a week-and-a-half.
That’s the COVID-related reality for the Wolves, who have been largely spared from disruptions in their own lineup but have watched as a series of opponents have had to cancel or delay contests.
The Wolves host Northeast Range at 7 p.m. Monday, then travel to Bigfork Thursday and North Woods the following day as they wind down a late-starting regular season.


A pick-six and an Ely win

by Tom Coombe
In an instant, Mason Davis reversed the Ely Timberwolves’ fortunes and deflated Northeast Range.
The Nighthawks were driving, perhaps toward a game-winning score, when Davis stepped in front of a pass, returned it 70 yards for a touchdown, and fueled a 20-14 high school football victory Oct. 30 at Aurora.
The sudden turnabout helped the Wolves, who returned to the gridiron after a 16-day layoff, their second win in three tries this fall.
It wasn’t easy, as Northeast Range, led by senior speedster Bralyn Lislegard, had the Wolves on the ropes.
Lislegard broke free for a 60-yard scoring run in the third quarter, tying the game at 14, and the Nighthawks turned to their leader on what was set up to be a drive to put them in the lead.
But the Wolves’ defense threw Lislegard for a loss on second down, forcing the Nighthawks to pass on third, and it led to the Davis interception and score.


Times drop at sections for NRE swimmers

So 2020: Swimming
in the dark
Last weekend at the Section 7A Swim meet in Aurora. For the final event, the 400 freestyle relay had to swim in the dark.
“We had lost power and we had to use the emergency lights and the girls used cell phone flashlights to light up the pool,” said head coach Cheri DeBeltz. “We also have a team GPA average of 3.75, we received Gold standard for the MSHSL. This small and very young team has done a wonderful job this season. We are very proud of them.”


Sections loom for NRE swimmers

by Tom Coombe
An unconventional season will end in unconventional fashion for Northeast Range/Ely.
While the Nighthawks compete Saturday in the Section 7A high school girls swimming meet, they’ll face only rivals Eveleth-Gilbert and Mesabi East in person at the pool in Aurora.
At the same time, eight other teams will participate in the section event at pools in Duluth and Hibbing.
Times in each event will be compiled at each site and at the end of the day, individual and team standings will be determined.
The split section event is one of the numerous changes put in place this fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has made for a season full of adjustments for high school athletes across the state, including the NRE swimmers.
“It has been such a challenging year, both mentally and physically,” said head coach Cheri DeBeltz. “Especially once the school went to hybrid. It’s taken its toll.”


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