Aurora tops GI Northwest in a wild, 42-34 thriller.
by Bobby Mills (1000 Yard Guy)
It certainly wasn't a game for the weak at heart, but in typical Aurora/Northwest fashion, this gridiron battle royale went down to the wire. In the end, the last one standing was the Huskies, but I'm betting there was a million chewed up fingernails laying on the ground after this baby was in the books. After all was said and done, Aurora remained unbeaten with a well earned 42-34, setting up a District 6 title matchup with unbeaten York next Friday in Aurora.
It was a frenzied contest that featured more than 800 yards of total offense and 9 combined turnovers, most of which were caused by jarring hits. It also was a game of repeated gut checks and classic down deep digs by two Class B football teams who just refused to fold. The game was never in the bag until Aurora delivered one final bone crushing, fumble inducing hit on Northwest wide receiver Will Mettenbrink at the Huskie 11 yard line with 2 minutes left in the contest.
So many momentum changes, so many comebacks, so many players coming through when their teams need them the most. Classic, Game for the Ages, Northwest/Aurora football at it's best and it was a beauty.
It didn't take long for Northwest to make a statement in this football game. The Vikings took control on the opening possession, marching 78 yards for a touchdown, quarterback Christian Ellsworth blasting in from a yard out. Preston Sundermeier kicked the PAT through with 8:56 left in the first quarter, giving the Vikings the early 7-0 lead and accomplishing a first in the process. Not one of Aurora's 1st seven opponents had been able to score in the opening quarter in 2015.
When Sundermeier nailed a 35 yard field goal with 4:19 remaining in the 1st, Northwest had 10-0 lead that stood up after one stanza. It was an opening frame that saw All-State Aurora wide receiver Todd Honas and ace junior RB Preston Dibbern both lose fumbles following tough tackles.
The Aurora defense did manage to strip the ball from Northwest's Christian Ellsworth in that opening quarter, but the Viking "D" held the Huskies to a 3 and out afterwards.
Aurora took control in the 2nd quarter nearly as quickly as Northwest did to open the game. 9 seconds into the quarter, Huskie QB Grant Fox found Todd Honas on a 24 yard crossing pattern for a touchdown. The same duo hooked up for the double PAT, and suddenly Aurora trailed only 10-8. After the Huskie defense forced a 3 and out, Fox immediately found the speedy Todd Honas for a 41 yard pass completion. A few plays later, junior Preston Dibbern swept around his left end for a 3 yard TD, giving Aurora their first lead of the game, 14-10.
On the following possession, 6-8, 210 pound football/basketball standout, Austin Allen picked off an Ellsworth pass, putting Aurora in business at the Northwest 38. The Viking defense got stingy, forcing the Huskies into a 4th and goal at the 1 after 3 straight blasts up the gut. On 4th down, Fox went to......you guessed it, to his 6-8 receiver. Austin Allen pulled down the 1 yard touchdown reception and Aurora had it biggest lead, 20-10 with 3:09 left in the half.
Northwest would add a 30 yard Preston Sundermeier field goal just before halftime, slicing the Huskie to 20-13 at the break. The fun was only just beginning.
1st year Aurora head coach Kyle Peterson decided to immediately test the Viking defensive secondary following the 2nd half kickoff. Grant Fox dropped back, planted his feet and found Todd Honas for a sweet 55 yard gain. A late hit by the Vikings tacked on 10 more yards, and Preston Dibbern cashed in with a 6 yard TD run a few plays later, putting Aurora up 26-13 with just a minute 54 seconds deep into the 3rd stanza. Was this the time Aurora would put the Vikings away? Christian Ellsworth had only completed 3 of his last 8 throws and one was to the team in the white jerseys. But the 215 pound Division One Northwest Viking prospect had other ideas.
Ellsworth was good on 5 of his next 6 throws, the 6th, an 11 yard touchdown pass to tough Brook Brown. With 7:59 left in the 3rd quarter, Northwest was back to within 26-20. Had the Vikings gained back the momentum?
On Aurora's next possession, Preston Dibbern was stripped of the ball and the Vikings recovered at the Northwest 44. A few plays later, Ellsworth once again goes to Brown, the former quarterback, for a 13 yard TD pass. Sundermeier boots the point after and it's Northwest advantage, 27-26 with 4:50 remaining in the 3rd.
Aurora looked like they would respond immediately when Honas, who sparkled all night, took the following kickoff back to the Huskie 48 yard line, but Grant Fox was picked off by senior DB Bryce Williams and Northwest was back in business at their own 35. The Vikings looked like they had snared the momentum back just when they needed it the most. But a game changer was just around the corner, and it just may have been a moment Aurora fans will remember.
Sharpshooter Christian Ellsworth and the Viking were piecing together a great drive following the Williams interception. Northwest worked their way to the Aurora 20 yard line when DB Hunter Holliday came up with a huge drive stopping interception for the visiting Huskies. Holliday started up the Huskie sideline, but was met with a crunching tackle, separating the 170 pound junior and the football. A microsecond before the play was blown dead, Todd Honas alertly scooped up the ball and jetted past the stunned Northwest punt return defensive team for a stunning 75 yard touchdown dash. Fox found Dibbern for the double PAT and Aurora was back on top, 34-27 with 2:03 still left in the third quarter. Could things get any crazier?
Aurora looked like they may have salted away the victory after recovering another Viking fumble early in the 4th quarter. Burly fullback, Hunter Vettel smashed in from the 1 yard line, following a nice 56 yard drive. A win looked like a reality after a Fox to Alex Kubik double extra point made it Huskies 42-27. The clock read 8:03 to go.
The answer to the "win is in the bag" question was cleared up 33 ticks after the Vettel touchdown. Ellsworth, who completed a monstrous 36 of 55 passes, spotted Bryce Williams, who scooted past a fallen Huskie defender, 53 yards for a touchdown. With the Sundermeier PAT, Northwest was back in the hunt, trailing only 42-34 and 7:20 still remained in the game.
Northwest's defense held Aurora on the ensuing possession, but the Huskies pinned their rivals deep in the shadow of their own end zone with a booming punt. It was gut check, crunch time for Ellsworth and his Viking teammates. 4:28 left on the clock and 88 endless yards staring them in the face. It was time for the senior signal caller/field general to show the masses why Division One football colleges are showing interest in him.
The marvelous senior picked apart the Huskie defense with 6, heart stopping completions. 6 yards to Bryce Williams, 12 more to Will Mettenbrink. Then a 14 yard strike to Brook Brown, a 15 yarder to Colton Helgoth, and a 5 yard completion to Tanner Lierman. Things were getting tense. Ellsworth had moved his team all the way from their own 12 to the Aurora 28. Gut check, crunch time........this time for 7-0 Aurora.
Ellsworth took the next snap, calmly stood his ground in the pocket and connected with the 5-7, 135 pound dynamo, Mettenbrink. The gutty senior took the reception all the way to the Huskie 11 yard line before he took a vicious hit and coughed up the football for the game's 9th turnover. Ball game.
Aurora took over at their own 13, and with the help of burrowing FB, Hunter Vettel, the Huskies ran out the clock with a 1st down, sealing a hard-fought 42-34 win.
The win sets up battle between two unbeaten Class B kingpins next Friday in Aurora, and it's for all the District 6 marbles. York, a 29-6 winner over Seward, also comes in with an 8-0 mark, matching the Huskies spotless 2015 record.
For Aurora, quarterback Grant Fox, accurate all season long, completed an unofficial 14 of 23 throws for 247 yards and two TDs and 1 interception. Preston Dibbern led the ground attack, accounting for 115 yards on 25 totes. All-State wide receiver, All-Everything Todd Honas was simply outstanding, catching 9 Grant Fox aerials for 153 yards and a TD. Honas also had that 75 yard fumble return and the nifty 48 yard kick return.
For Northwest, Christian Ellsworth set a Class B single game completion record with his 36 strikes. The old record was held by Hastings Vinny Schmidt, who completed 34 against Scottsbluff a year ago. The state record is 38, held by Bayard's Brandon Stuart (2010)
Christian was good on 36 of his 55 passes for 361 yards and 3 scores. The Viking QB also led the running attack with 108 yards on 22 carries. All together, the two teams combined for a whopping 860 yards of total offense.
Aurora (8-0) will host 8-0 York next Friday as we said, while the Vikings (5-3) may be able to secure a 1st round home game with a road victory when they visit Seward (3-5) on Friday as well.
GINW--Ellsworth 1 run (Sundermeier kick)
GINW--Sundermeier 35 field goal
A--Honas 24 pass from Fox (Honas pass from Thompson)
A--Dibbern 3 run (run failed)
A--Allen 1 pass from Fox (kick failed)
GINW--Sundermeier 31 field goal
A--Dibbern 6 run (kick failed)
GINW--Brown 10 pass from Ellsworth (Sundermeier kick)
GINW--Brown 13 pass from Ellsworth (Sundermeier kick)
A--Honas 75 fumble return (Dibbern pass from Fox)
A--Vettel 1 run (Kubik pass from Thompson)
GINW--Williams 53 pass from Ellsworth (Sundermeier kick)