The Wheaton/Herman-Norcross football team ended its season with a 38-16 loss at Verndale in the Section 4-Nine-Man playoffs, Friday night. The Warriors ended the season with a 4-4 overall record after beating Bertha-Hewitt in the opening round of the section tourney.
Verndale was set to move on to face Hancock in the section championship game, but due to COVID-19, all high school events have been postponed for at least four weeks, meaning the title game has been canceled.
Seniors lost to graduation from this year’s team, coached by James Paul, are Gunner Martinek, Ethan Nachbor, Uriel Guzman-Cruz, Gradie Vatthauer, and Connor Zych.
It was all Verndale in the first half as the winners went up 6-0 after one quarter and 22-0 by halftime. The lead was up to 30-0 before W/H-N got on the board in the third quarter on an 11-yard pass from Zach Braaten to Grant Dawson followed by the two-point conversion pass from Braaten to Connor Zych.
Moments later, Braaten and Dawson teamed up again for a 68-yard touchdown pass followed by the two-point conversion run by Gunner Martinek.
Suddenly, the Warriors had pulled to within 30-16. However, that would be as close as they would get as Verndale added one more touchdown in the fourth quarter for the final score.
Verndale also beat W/H-N in the first game of the season, 22-8.
W/H-N ran 53 plays and totaled 355 yards, including 276 through the air and 79 on the ground, but Verndale ran 76 plays and had 471 yards of offense, including 236 passing and 235 on the ground.
One of the keys to the game were turnovers as the Warriors threw two interceptions and Verndale did not have any turnovers. In addition, the winners were also 4-of-5 on fourth-down conversions and held a 27-17 edge in first downs.
Braaten finished the game 20-of-36 passing for 276 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions. Dawson had a great game with ten catches for 179 yards and two scores, while Zych had four receptions for 48 yards, Hunter Blume had two for 27 yards, Ethan Nachbor had two for 20, and Martinek had one catch for one yard.
Braaten was also the top rusher, carrying five times for 45 yards, while Martinek was held in check by the tough Verndale defense with eight rushes for 28 yards and Jarred Ehlers carried one time for a six-yard gain.
Bryant Callenius led the defense with 11 tackles (four solo and seven assisted), while Grant Dawson, Ethan Nachbor, and Tim Blume each ad 10 tackles (7-3), Hunter Blume (6-3) had nine, Connor Zych (4-3) had seven, Gunner Martinek (4-2) had six, Joe Krenz (2-3) had five, Logan Young (2-1) had three, and Jarred Ehlers (0-2) had two.
And, for the first time all season, W/H-N did not record a fumble recovery, interception, or sack.