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Voyageur's Best Sports of 2005

Cromwell Football

T-S sacked in Cromwell
Cromwell Cardinal take a trip to the Metrodome
by John Grones  |  November 15, 2005

Four years ago, there wasn’t much talk about the freshman class. In fact, there was a question whether this class could carry on the Cromwell tradition.

Well, that question has been answered, and then some.

The 35-14 victory over the Tower-Soudan Eagles on Friday, November 11 gives Cromwell an 12-0 record and a trip to the Metrodome for the first time since 2000. It appears that a scrawny group of then freshman, a tough running back/linebacker and a bunch of underclassmen had dreams of their own.

“I’m speechless,” said senior captain Russell Johnson. “We just played hard. I never thought we would do this good. We just took it game by game and here we are.”

After the game, Ben Garske, a fellow captain kept repeating, “We’re going to the ‘dome.” The last time these players were in the metrodome was in 2000. None of them were on the varisty team, but they remember watching the team play Westbrook-Walnut Grove. “We were in seventh grade when we went and watched them,” Ben added.

The victory was a huge improvement over last week’s section final against AlBrook. The Cardinal team cleaned up the turnovers and limited the penalties. In all, Cromwell turned the ball over zero times and only had a few penalties when the game was already in hand.

Big plays also marked the team victory, none more important than the back-to-back sacks that occured on the very first drive of the game.

Tower-Soudan, the bigger and stronger team, took the first possession of the game and powered down the field for what was shaping up to be the first score.

The Eagles went 63 yards in eight plays – down to the 7-yard line, before Tom Garske made the two biggest plays of the game. First he sacked Tower-Soudan quarterback Jesse Quick for an 8-yard loss. Then, on the very next play, did it again. This time, the sack resulted in a 10-yard loss for the Eagles.

Eighteen yards in negative yardage, followed by two incomplete passes, and Cromwell took over on downs.

“It was awesome,” said Tom who came up with one more sack for a total of three in the game.

Those two plays ultimately put the momentum in Cromwell’s favor and may have been the turning point in the game. The Cardinals then proceeded to put together that very important first-score drive. The drive started on their own 25-yard line in the first quarter and ended with a Cody Hendrickson 3-yard quarterback keeper in the second quarter.

The 12-play drive featured 23 yards on the ground for Russell and 39 yards on the ground from Cody. Cody’s 17-yard keeper on third and 12 was the key play. A two-point conversion failed, but Cromwell had a 6-0 lead.

The next big play came on defense. After the Eagles took over, they ran three plays and came up just short, leaving a fourth down situation. Tower-Soudan decided to go for the first, but they ran into Jordan Johnson and Cody Hendrickson. Jordan made the initial hit in the backfield and Cody took the ball carrier down.

This stop gave Cromwell excellent field position and they took advantage. Eight plays and 55 yards later, Russell took a pitch and raced 10 yards for the score. Russell added the 2-point run for a 14-0 lead.

At this point the game had a feel similar to the game a week ago versus the AlBrook Falcons. Tower-Soudan took over on offense and decided to just focus on the run. It proved to be an excellent strategy. They went 63 yards on 13 plays and Dean Broten scored from 1-yard out with just 31 seconds remaining until halftime. Matt Bjorgo added the 2-point run and the Eagles were back in the game at 14-8.

Tower-Soudan’s elation, however, would only last for a short time because Cromwell recovered a bouncing kickoff and took over from their own 30. It was decision time for Cromwell, kneel down and go in at half-time up by six or take a shot. Coach Gronner decided to line up in shotgun formation. They ran an outside trap play for Russell and he ran 70 yards for the back-breaking score. Cody ran the two-point coversion in for a 22-8 halftime lead.

In the second half it was more Cromwell defense and two more nice drives by the offense. By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, Cromwell had the comfortable 35-8 lead.

The Eagles finally got a drive going to start the fourth. Unfortunately for them, they consumed close to seven minutes before scoring. From this point on, Cromwell ran the clock down and prepared to celebrate its return to the State Semi-finals at the Metrodome.

Senior safety Rich Franko concluded by stating, “It’s the greatest feeling ever... watching those final seconds on the clock run down!”

This article first appeared in the November 15, 2005 issue of the Voyageur Press.