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Howie: Hawks expect physical game at North Branch Friday night

North Branch ran the football “down Princeton’s throat” in a 36-31 high school home victory last Friday night, Hermantown coach Mike Zagelmeyer said after watching the Vikings’ new-look offense on film Monday.

“North Branch, under a new coach, has switched to a 1970’s smash-mouth offense – and all out of one formation,” said Zagelmeyer.

The Hawks, who pounded nonconference Moose Lake-Willow River 27-13 in its opener last Thursday at Corey Veech Memorial Field in Hermantown, next visit North Branch (1-0) at 7 p.m. Friday.

“It’s a big switcheroo from the spread offense North Branch ran a year ago,” said Hawks senior halfback Elliott Peterson, who had a pair of touchdown receptions against the Rebels. “It will be a physical game at North Branch, to be sure.”

Meanwhile, the Vikings’ defense will be tested by Hawks standout halfback David Cornelius, who rushed for 221 yards and two touchdowns against the Rebels.

“We expect David to run crazy every game,” said Peterson.

Overall, Zagelmeyer said he’s eager to see how well the Hawks will respond to North Branch’s physical approach.

“We really came to play in the first half against Moose Lake-Willow River, when we executed well and pretty much played mistake free all night,” said Zagelmeyer, a 22-year Hawks assistant who recorded his first career coaching victory against the Rebels after stepping up to replace former coach Daryl Illikainen, who took a teaching job in Orono, Minn. “With all the changes we made, I felt it was important for us to have success in the opener so the players wouldn’t second-guess what we were doing. But, it was only the first game and you never really know what you’ve got until you play the second game. Hopefully we can continue the momentum into Week 2.”

Peterson said the Hawks were both razor focused and cautiously optimistic for the MLWR opener.

“We wanted the new offense to work as much as the coaches wanted it to work. It was a huge statement win,” he said.

Hawks Notebook

. The Hawks’ tenacious, swarming defense mostly held the Rebels’ traditionally explosive offense in check, Zagelmeyer said. “For the most part, we had 10 to 11 guys flying to the ball on every play,” he said. “Our defensive line play was impressive.”

. Zagelmeyer said he was glad to put his first coaching victory behind him and the team.

“It’s understandable, I guess, when you replace a coaching legend, a good friend and a very, very good coach in Ike, that there’s conversation about getting the new coach the first win. Now we can shift the focus to the rest of the season,” Zagelmeyer said.

. Zagelmeyer said Peterson, quarterback Tate Hansen and Popeye-strong, two-way lineman Dalton Plaisted “also lived up to their billings.”

“We sought balance offensively, and Elliott and Tate delivered along with David,” said Zagelmeyer. “Dalton dominated on both sides of the ball.”

. Peterson said if the Hawks remain healthy, they should challenge for a Northeast Red championship and make a run in the playoffs.

“Our line play is the darkhorse,” said Peterson. “Our senior linemen led by example in the opener, and the young guys bought into it. Remaining healthy is a key moving forward.”

. Peterson said he was impressed, but not at all surprised, by the strong play of Cornelius, Hansen and punishing senior fullback Caden Potter, who was spotted several times bench pressing Honda Civics in off-season workouts.

“In our spread offense, we look for David to have big games every week,” said Peterson. “Tate is a tremendous QB, and Potter is a meatball who wins every one-on-one battle.”

Hawks’ Football Schedule/Results

Defeated Moose Lake-Willow River 27-13

Friday – at North Branch, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 14 – host Duluth Denfeld, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 21 – host Grand Rapids, 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 28 – at Duluth East, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 5 – at Hibbing, 7 p.m.

Friday, Oct. 12 – host Proctor, 7 p.m. Homecoming

Wednesday, Oct. 17 – at Cloquet, 7 p.m.