Wolves come oh-so-close
by Tom Coombe
If it weren’t for bad breaks, the Ely Timberwolves wouldn’t have any breaks at all.
The hard-luck high school football team suffered another heartbreaker on Oct. 7 - this time before a huge Fall Homecoming crowd at Ely School Stadium with a loss by the narrowest of margins.
A yard away from a potential game-winning score, the Wolves fell 22-20 to North Central when a fourth-and-goal field goal attempt went awry.
Senior Erron Anderson was lined up to boot the game-winner, but a high snap prevented the kicker from getting the ball into the air.
North Central escaped while the Wolves, who lost in double-overtime to Cook County just two weeks earlier, fell to 0-5.
Other than a blowout loss to unbeaten Mt. Iron-Buhl, the Wolves were competitive in every other defeat and within one touchdown in three of the four.
The Homecoming game followed a similar pattern, with Anderson igniting the audience in the second quarter by picking off a pass and returning it 90 yards for an Ely touchdown.
That trimmed the gap to 8-6 and Ely was very much in the game despite being outgained 214-44 in the opening half by the Stars, who combine players from Kelliher-Northome and Littlefork-Big Falls.
The tide turned Ely’s way in the second half and the Wolves took a 12-8 lead on a 29-yard scoring pass from Gunnar Hart to fellow senior Jason Kerntz.
Ely missed the two-point conversion and it would prove pivotal.
The Stars cranked out 388 total yards, all but seven on the ground, and took a 14-12 lead on Marcus Johnson’s 48-yard sprint to the end zone in the third quarter.
North Central opened the fourth quarter with a drive that resulted in a 26-yard scoring run by Seth Donner, and a big two-point conversion made it 22-12.
Ely fought right back, with Hart and Kerntz connecting again through the air - this time on a 42-yard play over the middle. The two-point play made it 22-20 and the Wolves had life.
Ely’s defense held and the Wolves went to work on the ground, with Kerntz and Anderson chewing up yards.
A 21-yard completion to Kerntz brought the Wolves down inside the Stars’ 10 and set up first-and-goal.
On third down, Kerntz ran right and was tripped up just short of the end zone.
After a timeout, the Wolves opted for the field goal attempt rather than a fourth-down run. The errant snap foiled their chance and the Stars took over with 20 seconds left and ran out the clock.
Hart was five-for-11 through the air for a season-high 130 yards, with Kerntz coming up with four catches for 117 yards.
Anderson ran for 46 yards and Kerntz finished with 38.
Ely was set to take on Cherry Friday night and the Wolves close out the regular season at home, on Wednesday, against Hill City-Northland. The opening kickoff is at 7 p.m.