• HS Football 9/23: Manistique 44, L'Anse 0
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  • HS Football 9/22: Ishpeming 46, Bark River-Harris 8
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Monday September 25, 2023
GREAT KNIGHT: Norway Rolls To 3rd Straight Win

Click the thumbnails to see photos, videos, and to hear post-game comments from Wyatt Spade, Ian Popp, and from Knights Coach Scott Popp.

The Norway High School football team used a big second half to pull away from the previously-undefeated Forest Park Trojans, 40-6, Thursday night, at Ronberg Stadium.

Norway seniors Wyatt Spade and Ian Popp both scored three touchdowns as the Knights won their third straight game after a season-opening loss. The Trojans, meanwhile, ranked No. 3 in the Upper Peninsula Sportswriters and Sportscasters Association Eight-
Player poll, lost for the first time after opening their season with three straight victories.

"Our practices, they're focused, and everything we do is with a purpose," Spade said. "The team is just really getting along, and we have some good chemistry going on. I'm pretty happy. We knocked off the No. 3 team in the U.P. That's what the rankings were. Overall, just really happy."

"I was playing with some confidence," Popp said. "We've had some really good games, and I've just been feeling myself lately. I've been in the zone! We weren't prepared for Week One against Lake Linden. I didn't have the best game myself. But we're building our confidence up, and we're just on a roll now."

The Knights scored first as quarterback Cole Baij found Spade for a 12-yard touchdown pass midway through the first quarter. Norway's defense forced a punt, but when the Knights got the ball at their own ten yard line, Baij was sacked by Matt Showers.

Showers pounced on the loose ball for the fumble recovery, and three plays later, Grayson Sundell scored the four-yard-touchdown run to tie the game at 6-6 for the Trojans.

It was still a 6-6 game deep into the second quarter when the Knights appeared to take the lead on a touchdown pass from Baij to Alex Ortman. But the ruling was that Ortman did not have control of the ball as he hit the ground while crossing the goal line. Pass interference was called, though, as Gaven Rintala was all over Ortman.

Two plays later, Baij adjusted to the blitzing CFFP defense when he pulled off a delayed pass to Popp for the four-yard touchdown. Then on the two-point play, Popp took the direct snap and shoveled a pass to Spade, who went into the end zone to give Norway a 14-6 lead.

The Trojans tried a fake punt from midfield, but the play was sniffed out by big sophomore Maddex Burklund as he got a solo tackle to give Norway's offense another possession.

The Knights had the ball again in the final two minutes, and moved to the Trojan red zone, but four straight incomplete passes left the game at 14-6 Norway at halftime.

Even though the Knights had outplayed the Trojans, it was still a one-score game, but that changed 3:17 into the third quarter when Spade broke off a 50-yard touchdown run to make it a 20-6 game. Then six minutes later, Spade took a direct snap and ran in anoter touchdown, giving Norway a 26-6 lead after three quarters of play.

Norway put the game away with a defensive touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter when Berklund nailed the quarterback and Popp picked up the errant toss, taking it 61 yards to the house for the touchdown. The icing on the cake was a six-yard run by Popp for another touchdown midway through the fourth quarter, and the Knights celebrated a big win.

"We were beating ourselves in the first half with the missed snaps, fumbles, interceptions, and stuff like that," Norway Coach Scott Popp said. "Just coming off that short week, because we played on Saturday (at Lake Linden-Hubbell). In the second half, they came out, and they finally played the game."

It was a hard-hitting game for Norway senior Hayden Amundson, who played with a black club on his right hand to protect it after an injury before the season-opener sidelined him for that game. And as for Popp, he simply ran people over at times as he piled up the rushing yards.

"It's really nice with me, Wyatt, and a couple of the seniors, we lead our team pretty well and we just keep our team positive and focused," the 5-11, 180-pounder said. "We just battle.  I'm feeling great. We've just got to keep it rolling and keep on the grind."

And Spade, who dominated the game in all phases of Thursday's contest?

"I've got to give the credit to my teammates," Spade said. "I mean, it's not just me. They've got to focus on Ian, Alex, so they're just not worried about me. They give me opportunities for Cole to throw me the ball."

While Spade was being humble and refusing to take any credit, it was obvious that he was a game changer. And his coach was not shy about saying so after the game.

"He was the Return Specialist of the Year last year, so if someone's going to kick to him, that's kind of foolish, in my opinion," Coach Popp said. "But they keep kicking it to him. He's just so fast, and he can go up and get the ball (on offense). He's got a 6-3 frame, and he's just athetic and he can get above people.'

The Knights (3-1) will host the Gogebic Miners next Friday night before hitting the road the following Friday to Ontonagon. Forest Park (3-1) will host Stephenson next Friday night before making a visit to Warner Field in Lake Linden the following Satuday afternoon.

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