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Football: Agates ready for 'fight' against Perham

Joey Marker (25) of Two Harbors reaches for extra yards near Eli Conaway (36) of Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin during the Section 7AAA championship game Thursday, Nov. 1, in Duluth. --- Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com1 / 2
Kicker Ryan Nowacki (99) of Two Harbors celebrates with teammates after kicking a field goal late in the second half during the Section 7AAA championship game Thursday, Nov. 1, at Malosky Stadium in Duluth. Clint Austin / caustin@duluthnews.com2 / 2

With a 100-yard interception return for a touchdown, Two Harbors junior defensive back clinched a 26-18 victory over Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin in the Section 7AAA championship Nov. 1 at Malosky Stadium in Duluth, sending the Agates to the state playoffs for the first time since 1977.

Two Harbors will face Perham (8-2) in the Minnesota Class AAA quarterfinals at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, at Brainerd High School.

While Two Harbors ended up making history in 2018, the Agates' potent run game was slow to get going this season. Two Harbors won its first game against Crosby-Ironton 28-17, but senior Ricky Brenna suffered a leg injury in the game and was lost until the Agates' regular season finale against Eveleth-Gilbert.

The Agates both of their next two home games, including a 14-7 loss to Duluth Denfeld where Two Harbors failed to score an offensive touchdown and a 26-20 overtime loss to Virginia three weeks later. Two Harbors turned things around against GNK on Sept. 28 in Coleraine. Junior running backs Sam Johnson and Joey Marker exploded for a combined 383 yards rushing and three touchdowns in a surprising 26-12 win over the then-undefeated Titans.

"In that Virginia game, things were going pretty rough there and we had to make a decision," Two Harbors coach Tom Nelson said. "There was a little bit of a fork in the road. I think the kids just came together and made a decision that they were going to get more focused then they'd been all year. Our next game up was the Greenway game. We went out there and got that victory and I think that infused them with some confidence and from there, it took off a little bit."

Two Harbors used the win as a springboard to five straight wins and a berth in the state playoffs — a run where the Agates have allowed double-digit points just twice, both against GNK.

What's more, since returning from his injury, Brenna has looked like the workhouse back Nelson hoped he would be. In each of the Agates two playoff victories, Brenna has rushed for more than 100 yards and scored a touchdown in each contest.

Perham defeated East Grand Forks 42-28 in the Section 8AAA championship, where the Yellowjackets reeled of 20 straight second-half points to down the Green Wave.

"They've got a really nice team there," Nelson said. "They'll be bigger than us, they'll probably be faster than us. You know, I get a chuckle – I take a peek at some of those boards and nobody is really giving us a chance. They're picking us to lose by 30, 40 points, but that's perfect. That's exactly the way we want it — and I hope Perham believes that.

"Our thing is we're going to go in and play our game and we're going in there to win the thing and if we can't do that, we're going to give them a heck of a fight," he said.

Spaghetti dinner, sendoff planned

In honor of Two Harbors' football team's first trip to state since 1977, there will be a community spaghetti dinner Friday, Nov. 9, and a send off for the team when it leaves for the game against Perham on Saturday, Nov. 10.

The dinner will begin at 6:30 p.m. at the Two Harbors Moose Lodge, 709 First Ave. There is no cost and it is open to the public. There will be a video tribute to the team. Head coach Tom Nelson will speak to the crowd, according to organizer Sue Bott.

Bott said they are asking as many residents as possible to come out Saturday morning to line the streets of Two Harbors as the Agates are escorted out of town by the police and fire departments.

KTWH expands coverage

KTWH-LP 99.5 Two Harbors Community Radio announced it is expanding its coverage for for Two Harbors' state quarterfinal game against Perham at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10, in Brainerd.

Agate alumnus Will Peterson will call the game and KTWH has added more than 400 listener seats for its livestream at ktwh.org. Live pregame coverage will begin at 2:20 p.m. Saturday.

Jamey Malcomb

Jamey Malcomb has been a reporter for the Pine Journal since October 2018. He previously worked as a reporter for the Lake County News-Chronicle from 2015-2018. Malcomb is a native of North Carolina and holds a bachelor's degree in English and history from the George Washington University and a master's degree in education from George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Malcomb moved to Minnesota in July 2012 and worked as a sports clerk and news assistant at the Duluth News Tribune. 

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