The Northland Pines football team reached the playoffs for the third straight year, but the Eagles lost 56-0 to powerhouse Freedom in the Level 1 playoff game last Friday night.

“It was a tough game. Freedom was a Level 3 team last year and was junior heavy,” said Pines coach A.J. Zayia. “I do believe that they would be playing in a State championship game had it been a normal playoff year. We were outmatched in most areas of the game.”

The WIAA announced earlier this fall that it would have just two levels of football playoffs in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the pandemic, dozens of teams forfeited games in the first round of the playoffs last weekend.

Freedom took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter on a 57-yard touchdown run and a 1-yard score. The Irish scored four more times in the second quarter on touchdown passes of 8 and 4 yards and runs of 53 and 15 yards. Freedom led 42-0 at the half.

Freedom found the end zone two more times in the third quarter on runs of 50 and 5 yards to make the final 56-0. The PAT kick was good following all eight scores.

Pines had just 72 yards of total offense, all on the ground, while Freedom rolled up 388 yards of offense, including 295 rushing and 93 passing. The Eagles had just three first downs compared to 25 for Freedom.

For Pines, Andrew Hart­wig rushed 11 times for 44 yards. Luke Rhode had 22 yards on 12 carries.

Defensively, Haskel Par­ker had six solo tackles and seven assisted tackles. Rhode had five solo tackles and one assist. Nic Borto­lotti had two solo tackles and three assists.

Zayia said it was a tough year for the Eagles, battling through some injuries, illness and COVID protocols.

“I am really proud of this team. This was a tough year to be an athlete. Normally we set a lot of goals as a team, but this year it seemed like our goal was to just make it to our next game with everything going on in the state,” said Zayia. “But this team still showed up and worked hard day in and day out at practice. We played a really tough schedule this year and our kids kept working hard. I think this team will have a lot of positives to build on for future years.”

The Eagles finished 3-1 in the conference and 3-3 overall.

“This senior class has a lot to be proud of,” said Zayia. “We were able to qualify three years in a row for playoffs.”

Seniors on the team included Rhode, Parker, Bor­tolotti, Michael Miller, Ethan Eldridge, Max Brown, Ben Reppert, Morris Justice, Spencer Gursoy, Logan Hissom, Jake Wielhouwer, Mason Meisenburg and Ethan Sites-Parker.