Football tradition continues at Moose Lake-Willow RiverAnother week. Another game. Another blowout.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Another week. Another game. Another blowout.
Nothing changed Thursday for the fourth state-ranked Moose Lake-Willow River football team. They stomped all over host Duluth Marshall 46-0.
Actually, nothing has changed in a decade for the Rebels program. Dominating performances, lopsided wins and shutout victories have come accustomed to ML-WR football over the years, but for one reason.
“Tradition,” said 16-year Rebels coach Dave Louzek. “It is a huge part of this programs success. Players are constantly reminded of the winning tradition over the past 10 years and to keep it strong.”
ML-WR has been to the state tournament five times in the past decade, including the last four years straight. The last time they lost a regular season game was in 2006, having strung off 33 straight wins, including 25 consecutive regular season road wins dating back to 2004.
The Rebels have also been to the Section 7AA finals six years running and, with this fall’s quick start, they are aiming for their seventh.
“Our program has the expectation of playing for the section championship year after year,” said Louzek. “It drives each group of players week after week.”
As for the winning streaks, numbers and stats, Louzek and his boys couldn’t care less – until the postseason.
“The regular season streaks are impressive, but have never been our focus,” said Louzek. “Success is measured by how we do in the playoffs. It’s all about how we do in the playoffs.”
ML-WR made a magical run last fall, winning their way to the 2009 Prep Bowl before falling to Waterville-Elysian-Morristown. This season, they want to make it back, and this time, win it all.
“The ultimate goal is the state championship,” Louzek said.
And they’re well on their way.
Three games have come and three routs have occurred, with the Rebels slamming their opponents to ground with their high-powered offense attack and stout, brick wall-like defense guiding the way.
ML-WR (3-0) has outscored their opposition 170-6, including a pair of runaway shutouts over Mesabi East and Duluth Marshall, as well an easy win against last year’s section finals opponent Rush City.
The gaudy scores don’t lie. The Rebels are for real, like always.
“Every team we face brings their best effort,” said Louzek. “Our players respect every opponent they play. They have a very high level of confidence and don’t get rattled very easy.”
Over time, ML-WR has continually been in the big games, under the bright lights, making things quite familiar to them, according to their coach. Play in such places like Public Schools Stadium in Duluth, Husky Stadium in St. Cloud, the Fargodome and Metrodome are like their own backyard in Willow River this fall.
On Thursday the Rebels were at Duluth Marshall, and the results? The same.
ML-WR stormed past the host Hilltoppers for a convincing 46-point Great Polar White Conference victory. Despite being down 19-0 at halftime, Duluth Marshall hung around.
“They were ready to play and made us work for our points,” said Louzek of the ‘Toppers. “Our success stems from the play of our line.”
Returning 16 seniors this fall and a good bunch more in the trenches, ML-WR took over the contest and created gaping holes for their run game.
Junior Chris Gassert gained 196 yards on just 12 carries and added four touchdowns to pace the Rebels. Gassert leads the Rebels’ rushing attack this fall with over 300 yards and seven scores, while senior captain Holden Olson has nearly 200 yards and five touchdowns.
“Our rushing offense has always been what the Rebels are known for,” said Louzek. “We don’t change what we do. The boys are very comfortable and have run this offense from seventh grade on.”
Senior Abe Young leads the team with 24 tackles on the defensive side this fall, while senior captain Austin Lanoue has a team-best three sacks.
ML-WR will hit the gridiron Thursday when they head to the Twin Cities to face St. Paul Como Park. And expect their faithful to be in full force.
“It is a type of game that will better prepare this team for the playoffs,” said Louzek of their upcoming clash. “The community support has been second to none and it’s the kids that I get to work with year after year that keeps me wanting to come back and coach. The expectations are high and they have a lot to live up to.”