Rebels advance to Section 7AA championshipThe top-seeded Moose Lake-Willow River football team cruised to another big victory on Saturday with a 37-0 win over Deer River. The Rebels play at 7 p.m. today for the Section title against Braham at Duluth's Public Schools Stadium.
By: Jeff Papas, Pine Journal
The top-seeded Moose Lake-Willow River football team cruised to another big victory on Saturday and is headed back to the Section 7AA championship game as a result.
The Rebels overcame a slow start – at least, for them – and beat Deer River 37-0 in a semifinal matchup, earning a Thursday matchup against Braham for the right to go to state.
“I’m very happy,” Rebels coach Dave Louzek said. “Deer River was a completely different team from the first time we played them (a 47-0 win on Oct. 1). “They (Deer River) were physical and ready to play.”
As a result, the Rebel offense struggled through a scoreless first quarter. But in the second, Adam Johnson and Chris Gassert found the end zone as the home team built a 14-0 lead they would not lose.
“The defense played tough, and it was good for the offense to have that adversity early on,” Louzek said. “The defense kept Deer River out of the end zone until the offense started playing well.”
And, the defense kept the Warriors out of the end zone after that as well. The result was the team’s fifth shutout of the season.
“The second half was a whole different half,” Louzek said. “Our kids were more prepared for [a physical] game and played a very good second half.”
Johnson hauled in a 19-yard scoring pass from Nick Tocar to make it 21-0 in the third quarter and a safety plus touchdowns from Johnson and Tocar in the fourth quarter accounted for the final margin.
For the night, Johnson had 122 yards rushing on 17 carries. Gassert gained 87 yards on one carry and Jake Disterhaupt added 67 yards on six efforts. The Rebels rushed for 314 yards in the game.
However, Louzek wants to use the first quarter as a wake-up call for his players heading into the section final.
“It was a teachable moment,” he said. “We talked all week about expecting to face a faster and more physical Deer River team. But dealing with teenagers, sometimes they have to learn for themselves.”
Louzek expects a similar situation against the Bombers, whom his Rebels defeated 54-14 – in Braham – just three weeks ago.
“We handled them (Braham) the first time we played them, but we’re going into the same type of situation,” Louzek said. “The kids are ready for a better team this time around than what they remember the first time.”
Braham beat Esko 51-18 in the other section final to earn the right to a rematch against the Rebels.
“They ran the ball more against Esko than they have in the past, but we do expect the ball in the air quite a bit,” Louzek said. “Learning from Saturday’s game, we should expect Braham to be better.”
The Rebel defense will again be key to a win.
“Defensively, this is probably the best unit I have coached,” Louzek said. “The line is the strength. Having a dominant defensive tackle like Austin Lanoue creates blocking problems for offenses. We swarm to the ball and make very few mistakes. The defense is instinctive, and sees the play develop and reacts quickly.”