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Wolves hold off Deer River

The Ely Timberwolves’ defense had just enough gas left in the tank.Worn down in the second half by Deer River, the high school football team nonetheless came up with a critical defensive stand in the final quarter, preserving a 16-12 victory Friday night at Ely School Stadium.The Warriors, who battled back from a 16-0 first quarter deficit, drove from their own 10 yard line to the Ely 15 in a drive that started with 6:20 to play.But with time running out, the Warriors were forced to abandon their effective running game and go to the air.A third-down incompletion set up  an all-or-nothing fourth-down play with 20 seconds left, and Ely safety Tim Scott batted down a pass near the goal line.That gave the Wolves their third win of the season - and the program’s first against Deer River since 1998.The Warriors, a perennial power for most of the last two decades, fell to 0-6 in an uncharacteristically down year.Ely’s running game clicked on all cylinders on its first two possessions.The Wolves marched 69 yards in 13 plays on the first drive, including  strong runs by senior Mike Krunkkala and a 19-yard counter by classmate Mike Fenn.Scott, who led all Ely rushers with 117 yards on 15 carries, plunged in from the one to put the Wolves on the board. Ely added the two-point conversion for an 8-0 lead.After stopping Deer River at midfield, the Wolves got the ball at their own 13 and moved right down the field again.Krunkkala went for 27 yards and Scott 26 on Ely’s first two plays, and Fenn added another 10 yards on a counter.The Wolves added their second touchdown on a seven-yard completion from Scott to Fenn. A second two-point conversion gave the hosts a 16-point lead.But Ely couldn’t quite deliver a knockout punch in the first half, even though there were opportunities.A Deer River fumble gave the Wolves first-and-10 at the Warrior 25, but Scott threw an interception on the ensuing possession.And with Ely leading 16-6 late in the first half, the Wolves ran out of time deep in Deer River territory, right after Scott cracked off a 40-yard scamper.The tide turned in the second half, when Deer River held the Wolves to just 28 yards of total offense and warmed up its own attack.It was powered by junior back Dale Gullickson, who ran for a game-high 159 yards on 25 carries.Gullickson scored on a four-yard dive to put Deer River on the board in the second quarter.He sparked a 54-yard second-half scoring march with runs up the middle and around end, and finished it with a one-yard scoring run.And when the Warriors got the ball back in the closing minutes, he had runs of 17, nine and eight yards to move the visitors down field.The Wolves outgained the Warriors 274-247 in the contest. Both teams had three turnovers.Krunkkala had 88 yards rushing and Fenn finished with 34 for Ely, which is at Silver Bay Wednesday in the regular season finale.The Wolves begin Section 7AA playoff action Oct. 26, most likely against Duluth Marshall.A win at Silver Bay could give the Wolves home field advantage for the first round of the playoffs.

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