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Vikings take down Blue Devils

Dawson Van Ryswyk carries the ball as Keano Batton looks to block Wednesday in the first round of the 8-Man state playoffs. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Dawson Van Ryswyk carries the ball as Keano Batton looks to block Wednesday in the first round of the 8-Man state playoffs. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

NORTHWOOD — Paired with 50 points and 501 rushing yards, an opportunistic defense propelled the Northwood-Kensett football team past West Central.

After allowing 24 points in the first half, the Vikings intercepted West Central’s 6-foot-10-inch, 255-pound senior quarterback, Ethan Steinbronn, twice and held the Blue Devils to one touchdown in the last two quarters.

“We needed those picks,” said Northwood-Kensett quarterback Josh Einertson. “They got us going. They got us hyped and ready to play.”

The Vikings went on to win 50-32 Wednesday in the first round of the 8-Man state playoffs.

Despite an ankle injury that held Coleby Bratrud — a Tribune First Team All-Area selection who rushed for 816 yards last season — to one carry for five yards, Northwood-Kensett’s backfield was alive and well.

Keano Batton gashed the Blue Devils’ defense for 261 yards and three touchdowns on 47 carries. Einertson followed with 20 carries for 168 yards and two touchdowns, and Dawson Van Ryswyk carried the ball six times for 54 yards and two touchdowns.

Although Bratrud only took one rep in the backfield, he had four tackles as a linebacker.

“Coleby’s a real leader for us,” said Vikings coach Dave Capitani. “He obviously wasn’t 100 percent on defense, but just his presence on the field is big for us.”

Van Ryswyk and Marty Hopperstad led Northwood-Kensett with 10 tackles each.

West Central struck first on a drive that included a fourth-and-long conversion and ended with a 25-yard pass from Steinbronn to Joe Wolfe. Steinbronn was involved with every score for the Blue Devils. He threw for three touchdowns, rushed for two more and even caught a pass for a two-point conversion in the third quarter.

Northwood-Kensett countered with a 15-yard touchdown run by Einertson to tie the score at six.

With 47 seconds left in the first quarter, the Vikings took their first lead, 14-12, with a 10-yard touchdown run by Batton and another run by Batton on the two-point conversion.

After Batton’s second scoring run, West Central took a 24-22 lead with rushing and passing touchdowns by Steinbronn.

However, Northwood-Kensett punched the ball across the goal line 22 seconds before halftime on a 1-yard run by Einertson that gave the Vikings a 28-24 advantage.

On the opening drive of the second half, Nick Lombard picked off a West Central pass and returned it to the Blue Devils’ 23-yard line. Northwood-Kensett cashed in with a 1-yard touchdown run by Batton.

“We knew coming in that any turnover was going to be big,” Capitani said.

Less than two minutes later, Steinbronn cut West Central’s deficit back to one possession, 36-32, but it was the last time the Blue Devils reached the end zone.

Van Ryswyk scored rushing touchdowns late in the third quarter and early in the fourth on runs of six and 13 yards to give the Vikings breathing room. Sandwiched between the scores was an interception by Mason Olson that gave Northwood-Kensett even more momentum.

Headed into the game, the Vikings (7-3) and Blue Devils (4-6) had two common opponents: Clarksville and Tripoli. Against Clarksville, Northwood-Kensett won 61-8, and West Central lost 58-30. Against Tripoli, Northwood-Kensett won 42-36 in overtime and West Central lost 68-40.

However, the Vikings and Blue Devils posted similar offensive numbers throughout the regular season. West Central averaged 37 points per game while Northwood-Kensett averaged 36.3.

The Vikings had the advantage defensively. Northwood-Kensett gave up an average of 19.4 points per game, while the Blue Devils allowed 46 points per game.

Next, the Vikings will play in the second round of the state playoffs at Central Elkader at 7 p.m. Monday. The Warriors (10-0) are coming off a 76-32 win against Meskwaki Settlement. Central Elkader hasn’t scored fewer than 58 points in a game this season. Against Dunkerton and Cedar Valley Christian, the Warriors scored 94 points.

“We’re going to work hard and do our best to beat them,” Einertson said.