GNK ground game stumps Virginia again

Virginia quarterback Jack Toman races down the field for a big gain in the first half of Tuesday afternoon's playoff game against Greenway/N-K.

MOUNTAIN IRON — The No. 6 Virginia football team had a few small victories in the first half of their 7AAA quarterfinal playoff game with No. 3 Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin.

The Devils limited the Titans to just two scores in the opening half, much better than the four they gave up 11 days prior when the two teams met in the regular season. When GNK passed the ball, the Virginia defense stepped up and had some excellent coverage to stifle Titan drives.

Virginia was also able to move the ball down field and make some big running and passing plays that gave them a shot at the end zone. They weren’t able to capitalize on these opportunities, but the Devils put up a fight that GNK wasn’t expecting.

That was just about everything Virginia was able to muster up, however, as they were kept off the scoreboard through all four quarters and gave up 28 more points in the second half to end their season with a 42-0 loss to the Titans, eliminating them from 7AAA play.

Tuesday’s game was moved to neutral-site Mountain Iron due to poor field conditions at Coleraine’s Dixon Barle field caused by the heavy rain sweeping through the area the past two days. That only meant, however, that the Titans would stick to their running game that not many teams have found a way to stop this season.

Thanks to the wheels of senior running back Eli Conaway, the Titans found themselves in the red zone early on their first drive. Five, six and seven yard gains from Conaway got GNK to the Devils one-yard line and Conaway punched it in with only four and a half minutes taken off the clock to give the Titans a 6-0 lead.

Virginia started the ensuing drive on their own 20-yard line but it only took two plays for quarterback Jack Toman to break free on a quarterback keeper. Toman found enough room to put together a 37-yard run that got the Devils into GNK territory. Toman ran for five more yards a few plays later and then connected with Cole Schaefer for an eight-yard pass to give the Devils another first down at the GNK 30. The run stopped there, however, as Toman was picked off by Blace Tomberlin for an interception, giving possession back to GNK.

At their own 10 yard line, the Titans continued to feed Conaway the ball and marched down the field with ease. When the quarterback Tomberlin went for a pass, the Devils backfield was there to break up the play. Handing the rock back to Conaway always got GNK back on track, however. No Conaway run on this drive was longer than nine yard, but it didn’t take long for GNK to be back within striking distance.

On first and 10 from the Virginia 25, Tomberlin aired it out to the end zone, but the Devils Ryan Scherf was their for the interception, preventing a Titans score and giving Virginia the ball back at their own two-yard line. That play ended the quarter with GNK only up 6-0 on Virginia.

The Devils could only move themselves out of their own end zone on the next drive and after a long punt, saw themselves facing a GNK offense starting at the Titan 20 yard line.

This time, GNK shared the rock between Conaway and DeAngelo Jefferson to move the ball down field, eventually making their way to the Devils 21-yard line. From there, Conaway would break a tackle and hit pay dirt to put his team up 14-0 after the ensuing two-point conversion.

That score held to end the first half. With GNK up 14-0 at the break, a Virginia team that was hanging tough had an opportunity to turn things around in the second half.

The Titans, however, had other plans and put their foot on the gas for three more scores in the third quarter to virtually put the game out of reach. Jefferson ran in the next score from 15 yards out, Tomberlin added another from five yards out before airing it out to Dylan DeChampeau for a 39-yard touchdown reception that put GNK up 34-0.

Meanwhile Virginia’s offense was stuck in a rut and the Titans defense made the second-half adjustments they needed to make to put the game out of reach.

Ty Donahue ran in one more score from five yards out for GNK early in the fourth quarter to make it 42-0 after the two-point conversion. That put the game in running time and neither team came up with any more points as the clock ticked down to zero.

Virginia’s season ends without a win as the Devils finish 0-9. The win moves GNK to 7-2 on the season. They’ll travel to Aitkin on Saturday to take on the second-seeded Gobblers. The Titans’ game with Aitkin is set for a 2 p.m. start.

VHS 0 0 0 0 — 0

GNK 6 8 20 8 — 42

First Quarter

G: Ely Conaway 1 run (run fail)

Second Quarter

G: Conaway 21 run (Ty Donahue pass from Blace Tomberlin)

Third Quarter

G: DeAngelo Jefferson 15 run (Tomberlin run)

G: Tomberlin 5 run (pass fail)

G: Dylan DeChampeau 39 pass from Tomberlin (pass fail)

Fourth Quarter

G: Donahue 5 run (Donahue run)

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