The Braham defense forced two key turnovers while smothering visiting Ogilvie, and the Bomber offense clicked on five scoring opportunities in a 32-6 victory in the Section 7A semifinals Oct. 29. Senior QB Tyler Vaughan had a huge afternoon on the gridiron, rushing for 221 yards and three touchdowns, along with throwing for two more scores.
Top-seed Braham will next face No. 2 Deer River in the 7A championship hosted at Duluth Public Stadium at 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 3. At stake: a berth in the Class A State tourney.
Ogilvie drove well on the first possession of the game behind 305 lb. tackle Doug Welch. Braham D-tackle Nick Hammond interrupted their flow by wrapping up the quarterback on a scramble for no gain, then the Braham defense stopped a Lion run on 4th-and-9 at the Braham 23.
“That was a big-time stop, and momentum in football is a huge thing. We bent on that first drive, but we didn’t break,” said Bomber Coach Shawn Kuhnke. “The kids stayed with our scouting report and game plan. We just executed and stayed tall, making a big stop on that first drive.”
On the next play, Vaughan weaved through the left side and broke away on a 77-yard TD scamper for an early blow. The Bombers then put together another scoring drive on their following possession, capped by a 5-yard scoring slant from Vaughan to Shaun Hollencamp.
“I would hate to play us because we have so many options. We have so many formations and move guys around everywhere– we just get guys in places where they can make plays,” explained Vaughan of the confidence he has in the Braham offensive scheme.
On the Lions’ next possession, D-tackle Alex Sutton penetrated for a strip sack which teammate Doniven Slama recovered at the Ogilvie 40. Braham made it 18-0 when Cory Ambrose hauled in a perfectly-thrown 30-yard bomb from Vaughan. The Lions finally answered with a solid 68-yard drive, scoring on a 10-yard run by McCoy Towle which had the score 18-6 at the half.
Braham took back the momentum with a 61-yard scoring drive to open the second half when Vaughan picked up great blocks on a 44-yard run, overcoming a 1st-and-30 following a holding call.
Hollencamp ended the Lions’ next drive by picking off a 4th-down pass at the Braham 10. Braham ended up turning the ball over with a fumble at their own 9, but the defense held for no Ogilvie points, helped by a holding call that wiped out a 10-yard scoring scramble. Ambrose lit up the Lion receiver with a big hit on the 4th-down pass attempt in the flats.
“That was a huge turning point because they had the momentum going their way. We knew our defense had to step up, and we did that. It was huge,” said Hammond. “When they got closer to the goal line, our defense came together and played better.”
Vaughan iced the victory in style when he sprinted down the left sideline for a 51-yard scoring run with 5:12 to play.
“We always look at Tyler as our ‘X’ factor,” said Coach Kuhnke. “Sometimes the defense has guys in the right position against us, and Tyler being the X-factor that he is can make guys miss and make a play for us when we need it. He’s able to bring so many of those intangibles to the game– just the football knowledge, the athleticism, all of that– and guys feed off it.”
“It’s a lot of fun, especially when those lanes open up when the guys are blocking for me,” Tyler Vaughan on running the spread offense. “We know the diversity of this offense, and we run on big plays. Our guys finish out to the whistle because you never know who is going to break it.”
Kevin Strelow accumulated 14 tackles for Braham, with Marshall Sward returning from his broken arm to add 11.5 tackles and Cam Braund 8.
Section 7A finals outlook
Deer River defeated No. 3 Cook County 41-31 in their semifinal match last Saturday, bringing a 9-1 record to Duluth for the championship.
“Deer River is a very good football team,” scouted Coach Kuhnke. “They have an All-State player in Damon Benham who plays QB and RB sometimes. He is a very good runner and will run the option. We have our hands full.”
The Bombers (8-1) will be gunning for a first State trip since 2004.
“It’s just amazing. My 10th grade year, we struggled. Last year we got it going a little bit. This senior year is our last year, so we came together as a team,” said Vaughan. “We knew dropping down a class was going to help us out a lot. Winning the conference was a big step, and hopefully we can win the section title this year.”
Added Hammond, “It means a lot to me to get back to Duluth. It was a lot of fun last year playing at that stadium, but hopefully this year we can do what we didn’t do last year and that’s win the section. We’re excited for it.”