AURORA — The Mesabi East football team opened up their new athletic complex Friday with an impressive effort both offensively and defensively, routing the Virginia Blue Devils, 42-0.
Quarterback Hunter Hannuksela had quite a few options to choose from running the ball with backs Cole Meyer, Gavin Skelton, Hunter Levander and Logan Schroeder all etching rushing touchdowns on the evening.
Hannuksela also recorded a touchdown through the air on a 49-yard pass to Skelton in the second quarter. The Giants also scored on special teams with Tyler Ritter recovering a blocked Devils punt in the end zone for six points.
As clutch as the Giants running game was, their defense was just as good to match, pitching a shutout that saw the Devils frustrated early on both the ground and through the air for all 48 minutes.
Mesabi East wasted no time putting points on the board with the first touchdown at the new field coming on their very first drive. On the fourth play of the series, Meyer took the handoff from Hannuksela and trucked it 50 yards to pay dirt to put Mesabi East up 8-0 after the successful conversion.
Virginia started their first drive with excellent field position on their own 47 after a 27-yard kickoff return by Cole Schaefer, but that’s as good as things got that series as the Devils were pushed back seven yards in three plays and were forced to punt.
Mesabi East started their next drive on their own 19 and slowly, yet methodically began their march down field. The series didn’t see many big plays, but the Giants were always moving forward. To cap it off, Hunter Levander punched it in to the end zone on a two yard run, putting Mesabi East up 14-0 near the end of the opening quarter.
The Devils couldn’t muster anything on their next drive and were pinned far back after a sack from Skelton on quarterback Jack Toman made it fourth and 20. Things got worse as two successive penalties on Virginia made it 4th and 30 and they had to punt out of their own end zone.
The Giants were able to capitalize on this as a blocked punt turned into a Tyler Ritter touchdown as the Giants lineman recovered the ball in the end zone, giving Mesabi East a 20-0 lead.
The Devils had their best chance to score squandered later in the second after a 36-yard pass from Toman to Ryan Hujanen that ended in the end zone was called back due to a Virginia penalty near the line of scrimmage.
Two more big plays in the second quarter kept the excitement going for the Giants with Skelton taking a quick pass at midfield for a 49-yard touchdown reception. On the next Giants offensive series, Skelton put the pedal to the metal and ran the rock in from 59 yards out, putting the Giants up 34-0 by the time the second quarter had ended.
Virginia managed to hold off the Giants from hitting pay dirt in the third quarter but one more scoring series for Mesabi East early in the fourth gave them a 42-0 lead with Logan Schroeder punching it in from a yard out with just over 10 minutes to play.
That score would hold as the last few Virginia drives came up empty, giving Mesabi East the shutout and a homecoming win at their first game in the new stadium.
After the contest, Giants head coach Steve Grams had many positives for his squad, starting with opening the new field with a W.
“The guys definitely had a lot on their mind this week with homecoming and the new field and playing against a rival like Virginia,” Grams said. “We had a couple tough games the last few weeks so coming out here and getting the win makes you real proud of them.”
Grams said that the Giants main method of attack worked almost perfectly Friday night.
“Our guys running the ball were huge for us tonight and it’s not just one guy out there doing it. We have a bunch of guys: Meyer, Skelton and Levander that can be successful for us. And Hunter Hannuksela had a heck of a game at quarterback and did everything we needed him to do.”
Statistically, Gavin Skelton finished with 102 yards and a score on 17 carries as well as the reception through the air. Cole Meyer finished with five rushes for 82 yards and a score and Hunter Levander had 79 yards and a score on 11 carries. In total, the Giants came up with 335 yards of rushing offense.
Defensively, Grams said his squad was tough Friday night and came up big when they needed to.
“I think the guys did great this week understanding their roles out there. Things got shifted around a bit during the game but they kept it tough and came up big for us.”
On the entire game itself, new field and homecoming festivities included, Grams couldn’t have asked for anything more.
“I think this is a game that these guys are going to remember for the rest of their lives.”
V 0 0 0 0 — 0
ME 14 20 0 8 — 42
M: Cole Meyer 50 run (Hunter Levander run)
M: Hunter Levander 2 run (run fail)
M: Tyler Ritter blocked punt recovery (pass fail)
M: Gavin Skelton 49 pass from Hunter Hannuksela (Skelton run)
M: Skelton 59 run (run fail)
M: Logan Schroeder 1 run (Hannuksela run)
Mountain Iron-Buhl 68,
Hill City/Northland 38
At Hill City, Dillon Drake ran for four touchdowns to lead the Rangers past Hill City/Northland, 68-38.
Drake scored twice in the first quarter, once in the second and again in the third to pace the Mountain Iron-Buhl attack.
Hunter Weigel added a 14-yard scoring reception from Asher Zubich and also a 1-yard TD run. Riley Busch also added two touchdown receptions from Zubich. The MI-B quarterback also ran in one score, to go with his three passing touchdowns.
MI-B (5-1) plays at Floodwood Friday.
MI-B 30 6 8 24 — 68
HC/N 6 18 14 0 — 38
MIB — Hunter Weigel 14 pass from Asher Zubich (run failed)
MIB — Dillon Drake 1 run (Weigel run)
HC — Vinny Ruschmeier 5 run (pass failed)
MIB — Riley Busch 10 pass from Zubich (Drake run)
MIB — Drake 5 run (Zubich run)
HC — Johnathan Gowell 11 pass from Wake (pass failed)
HC — Ammerman 2 run (pass failed)
MIB — Drake 21 run (run failed)
HC — Ruschmeier 10 run (pass failed)
MIB — Drake 8 run (Zubich pass from Weigel)
HC — Ruschmeier 2 run (Ruschmeyer run)
HC — Ruschmeier 60 run (pass failed)
MIB — Zubich 2 run (Drake run)
MIB — Busch 2 pass from Zubich (Drake run)
MIB — Weigel 1 run (Busch pass from Zubich)
At Nashwauk, a more physical Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin football team proved to be the tougher squad Friday night, downing visiting Eveleth-Gilbert 42-0.
With the score standing at 36-0 at halftime, the Bears only gave up one more score in the second half. Coach Derek Malner said his team picked up the intensity in the second half on the defensive front.
“About halfway through the second quarter we picked it up, I think,” Malner said. “From there they only scored 12 points the rest of the game and I’m real proud of the guys effort out there regardless of the score. The more physical team definitely got the win tonight.”
Eveleth-Gilbert is back in action next week for their homecoming game against International Falls, a must-win for the Bears according to Malner.
“We’re seeing this next one as a must-win for playoff seeding purposes. Offensively, we need to find some consistency and defensively keep up that intensity we had tonight in the second half. I think the outlook is looking up with having a home game and how we ended things defensively tonight.”
Eveleth-Gilbert’s home game with International Falls next Friday has kickoff set for 7 p.m.
Northeast Range 6
At Babbitt, the Timberwolves picked up their first win of the season as they rolled past Northeast Range, 44-6.
No further information was provided.
South Ridge 28,
At Culver, the Panthers power their way past Cherry, 28-0. Further details were not available as this edition went to press.
Dakota County 3,
Mesabi Range 0
At Virginia, Dakota County — a solid Division II volleyball team — took care of business Friday night in a 3-0 (25-15 25-20, 25-19) victory over Mesabi Range.
The Lady Norse fell to 12-8 overall with the loss to the non-conference foe that came at the home team with several different hitters and angles.
Mesabi Range was led by Isabella Mattila with 12 kills and two blocks, Haley Hansen with six kills and five blocks and Sarah Voss with 24 set assists and two ace serves. Montana Baker also tallied seven kills, seven digs and two blocks, while Madisen Overbye served up three aces.
Mesabi Range hosts Fond du Lac at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.