The Wright Call

By Dave Wright

In a crowded athletic landscape, four teams at Two Rivers High School had impressive efforts worth retelling as October came to a close.

It started on October 25 when the Warriors made a return visit to Hastings for a first-round Section 3AAAAA football game. Less than three weeks earlier on the same field, the Raiders jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back en route to a 42-6 win. Two Rivers head coach Tom Orth didn’t fear heading back for a rematch in the playoffs.

“We felt we made a few mistakes that gave them easy scores,” he said in reflection. “We felt if we cleaned a few things up, we could play with them.” 

This seemed like a brave view considering the fact that the Warriors had scored just 52 points while posting a 1-7 record during the regular season. It turned out Orth knew something others didn’t. “Our guys have hung together all season. They believe in each other,” he said. “We approach each game as a one-game season. We just want to be 1-0.”  

In the rematch, the sixth-seeded Warriors broke fast, grabbing a 24-14 halftime lead. Third-seeded Hastings rebounded to lead 28-27 after three quarters. Undeterred, the Warriors marched back with senior Gabriel Goldenman rumbling in for a touchdown and an eventual 33-28 win.  

As it developed, Goldenman and the Warriors were just warming up. Four days later, Two Rivers trekked to No. 2 Bloomington Kennedy for what turned out to be one of the wildest games of the season. The first half was tight with a Mason Boyken field goal on the last play of the half giving the Warriors a slight 3-0 lead. The teams traded third-quarter touchdowns. Kennedy scored early in the fourth to make it 14-10. That was still the score with less than five minutes left when the game exploded. Orth described what happened next. 

“We had a nice drive and scored to take the lead,” he said. “They broke a long run on the next series and we were behind again (21-17). We drove back a bit, but got stopped on fourth down at midfield.” 

In more than three decades of coaching, Orth readily admitted this might have been the wildest finish he’d ever been part of. The fact that the Warriors would face STA, which beat them 51-0 in the second week of the regular season, didn’t matter. “I told them they’ve earned a chance to play another game,” Orth said. “It’s all because of the hard work they put in. It’s something they should be very proud of.”  

With just three minutes left, more wackiness ensued. “Kennedy has the ball,” Orth said. “It’s a bad snap. They pick up the ball and start scrambling. It turns into a pass play that ends up a touchdown.” 

Two Rivers was suddenly down 28-17 with two minutes left. The Eagles decide to go for a killing dagger with an onside kick. They recover it and things looked grim for the Warriors.  

But the Eagles were penalized for a personal foul on their first play from scrimmage, which backed them up and stopped the clock. The same thing happened on the next play. “Now it’s like first and 30 plus yards,” Orth said. “They throw a pass and we intercept it.”

The Warriors moved quickly with Goldenman running in for a score. A two-point conversion made it 28-25.  

Two Rivers tried an unsuccessful onside kick, but still had three timeouts. A defensive stop and there was still a chance to pull the game out.  

Which is exactly what happened. The Warriors got the ball back and marched down to the Kennedy 1 yard line with 10 seconds left. Goldenman, who had been all over the field all day (in addition to three rushing TDs, he had 13 tackles at linebacker), got the call. However, instead of running toward the goal line, he threw it to Owen Watson for a touchdown with seven seconds on the clock. Boyken hit the extra point for a 32-28 lead.  

Game over, right? Not quite. The Eagles got the ball back and a penalty on the final play of regulation led to giving them one last shot. The Warriors defense made the play and Two Rivers was now heading to the section championship game at Saint Thomas Academy for the second time in three years. (The Warriors also battled the Cadets for the section title in 2020.) 

In more than three decades of coaching, Orth readily admitted this might have been the wildest finish he’d ever been part of. The fact that the Warriors would face STA, which beat them 51-0 in the second week of the regular season, didn’t matter. “I told them they’ve earned a chance to play another game,” Orth said. “It’s all because of the hard work they put in. It’s something they should be very proud of.”  

The Warriors’ bid to make the state tournament for the first time since 1977 ended when the Cadets claimed a 45-0 win on November 4. Still, Orth and his team have a playoff tale that’ll be remembered for a long time to come. 

Warrior volleyballers, runners prove tough

Fifth-ranked Two Rivers took a 9-14 record to No. 4 Cretin-Derham Hall for the first round of the Section 3AAA volleyball playoffs on October 25. The back-and-forth battle went to a fifth set, with the Warriors emerging with a 15-12 win. That sent them top-seeded Highland Park three nights later. The Scots had swept the Warriors in the regular-season finale 10 days earlier. The rematch started on a familiar note with Highland winning the first set, but Two Rivers turned the tables with an exhausting 30-28 win to even things up. The Warriors won the next two sets as well to earn a trip to No. 3 DeLaSalle on November 3 for the section title. Their state tournament dreams died there, however, as the Islanders won 3-0.

Not to be outdone, both Two Rivers cross-country teams gave Highland Park a run for its money at the Section 3AA meets on October 27. The Scots had handily won both City Conference meets the week before. However, at the boys’ sectional the Warriors edged Highland 49-51. The Scots’ Gavin Roberts and Davis Isom finished first and second, with the Warriors’ Patrick Donohoo and Lucas Esten finishing third and fourth. The deciding factor came down to the fifth finisher for both teams, with the Two Rivers’ runner placing 17th and the Scots’ taking 23rd.

Both Two Rivers and Highland returned to the state meet on November 5 at Saint Olaf. Saint Thomas Academy took third at sections and had three top 10 finishers, including Philly Solomon, Henry Landsem and Vincent Audette, who placed 6-8, respectively, to run as individuals at the state meet.

In girls’ cross-country, the defending state champion Scots showed off their depth with four finishers in the top 10 to handily win the meet with 26 points. Two Rivers came in second with 60. (Saint Paul Academy was fourth and Visitation fifth.) Leading the way for the Scots were Luna Scorzelli and Delia Johnson finishing first and second, with teammate Ellie Moore taking fourth. For the Warriors, Maggie McEllistrom finished sixth and Charlotte Chandler was eighth.

Highland wins girls’ cross-country title

Both Highland and Two Rivers lived to run another day at the state girls’ cross-country meet on November 5 in Northfield. The young but deep Scots ran away from the field to repeat as the state Class AA champions. Highland junior Scorzelli blazed the 5K course at state in 17:45.1, some 33 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor to win the race. Sophomore teammate Moore came in 15th and Johnson, the team’s lone senior, placed 19th. Sophomores Samantha Palm (48th) and Grace Lewis-Mosher (52nd) rounded out the Highland scoring.

The Scots’ team total of 79 points bettered second place Alexandria by 26 points. Two Rivers finished 11th in the 16-team field with 268 points. McEllistrom, a junior, was again the top Warrior across the finish line with a 24th place showing in the field of 158 competitors. 

On the boys’ side at state, the Scots placed sixth with 165 points and the Warriors finished 11th with 234 points. Donohoo, a junior, was the top Two Rivers runner, coming in 31st. Roberts and Isom, who are both seniors, finished 33rd and 34th, respectively, in the 160-runner field.  

Dave Wright can be reached at


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