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Late field goal sinks Ironmen

Tower native Lucas Stellmach may as well have kicked the Vermilion Ironmen right in the stomach.That’s how much pain his 35-yard field goal delivered to the community college football team Thursday night.In a dramatic finish, Stellmach came on with one second left and all but booted the Ironmen out of state playoff contention with the field goal, which lifted visiting Itasca to a 30-28 Northern Division win.The field goal boosted the Vikings to 5-1 overall and spoiled a spirited rally by the Ironmen, who trailed 27-7 midway through the third quarter but rallied to pull ahead on Evan Nikunen’s touchdown with one minute to play.The loss was Vermilion’s third straight, second in conference play and a killer to the Ironmen’s state playoff chances.Vermilion, 2-4, needs victories in its last three games and three straight Itasca losses in order to advance.Stellmach’s field goal was the last of many big plays in the see-saw contest.Itasca had touchdown passes of 79, 77 and 57 yards - but two of the three throws were tipped by VCC defenders and later caught by Viking receivers.After falling behind 27-7, Vermilion stormed back with a 39-yard scoring run by quarterback Lenny Serfling and an 80-yard interception return.Renaldo Gaskins picked off a pass at the VCC 20, returned it to the Itasca 38 and then lateraled to teammate Dudley Jeanville who returned it the rest of the way for the score.That made it 27-21 and set the stage for the fourth quarter.The Ironmen got the ball back with 3:40 to go and marched 75 yards for the go-ahead score.A fourth-down completion from Serfling to Irvin Bethea kept the drive going at midfield, and a 19-yard throw to Bethea gave Vermilion a first down inside the Itasca 20.VCC’s hopes seemed to have fizzled when Serfling threw a fourth-down incompletion, but Itasca was penalized for roughing the passer.That gave Vermilion first-and-goal, and Nikunen plowed in from two yards out to tie the game. Bob Karr’s extra-point made it 28-27.But Itasca wasn’t through. Rick Stephens caught the kickoff in the air and returned it to the Vermilion 42.Itasca got down to the VCC 18, called timeout, and sent Stellmach on for the game-winning kick.Stellmach’s boot was down the middle, and had just enough distance.Vermilion had taken a 7-0 lead after a scoreless first quarter when Gaskins recovered a fumble in the end zone.Itasca came back before the half. Quarterback Patrick White found running back Jake Koranda for a 79-yard scoring play, and White capped off another drive with a 16-yard sprint to the end zone.It was 14-7 Itasca at the half.White left the game because of a knee injury but quarterback Keith Halvorson came on and had two third-quarter touchdown throws.Both came in part to fortuitous bounces.Halvorson’s pass to the left sideline was deflected into the hands of Steve Freeman, who raced 77 yards for a score that put Itasca ahead 21-7.Later in the quarter, another ball was tipped and resulted in a 57-yard scoring play.Itasca quarterbacks Halvorson and W hite combined to go 15-for-24 for 345 yards.Serfling was 14-for-34 for 194 yards.Mesabi 28, Vermilion 0The unbeaten and nationally-ranked Norsemen lived up to billing in an Oct. 2 win over visiting VCC.Running back Quentin Coley ran for 171 yards and three scores, while the Mesabi defense forced 12 Vermilion punts and held the Ironmen to just 144 total yards.Neither team scored in the first quarter, but Mesabi took a two touchdown lead in the second as Coley sprinted 56 yards, and quarterback Andrew Woodard hooked up with Rasheed Rowe on a 49-yard scoring play.Mesabi added a safety and two touchdowns in the second half.Vermilion’s best scoring chance came at the end of the first half, when receiver Jason Vinje was stopped at the two yard line, following a 52-yard pass play, as time expired.• VCC hosts Hibbing at 7 p.m. Thursday.

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