Moose Lake-Willow River advances to state finalMoose Lake-Willow River defeated Jackson County Central, 27-20, in the Class AA football semifinals on Thursday, setting up a Prep Bowl rematch with Caledonia.
By: Rick Weegman, Duluth News Tribune
MINNEAPOLIS — Moose Lake-Willow River football players stood in a Metrodome tunnel waiting for Caledonia’s state tournament game vs. BOLD to end, continually checking to see if the defending champion Warriors were going to hold on.
After learning of Caledonia’s two-point victory, the Rebels went out and held up their end of the bargain in setting up a Prep Bowl rematch with a 27-20 win over Jackson County Central on Thursday afternoon in the other Minnesota Class AA semifinal.
“The kids have set the goal all year to get a rematch with Caledonia; they were very determined to get that rematch,” Rebels coach Dave Louzek said. “They were asking for updates because it came down to the wire. When Caledonia won, there was a little cheer. ”
Second-ranked Moose Lake-Willow River (13-0) and top-ranked Caledonia (12-0) meet again at 1 p.m. next Friday at the Metrodome. Caledonia won last year’s matchup 27-0.
“It’s an odd thing,” said senior running back Jake Disterhaupt, who led his team with 105 yards rushing on 20 carries. “Everyone says, ‘Why would you want to play Caledonia, they’re so good?’ That’s why we want to play them. We know they are a great team so we want to match ourselves to Caledonia, and, hopefully, prove ourselves better. ”
The Rebels clinched the win with an
11-play, 66-yard drive that featured five rushes by backup B. J. Young and a 4-yard touchdown from fullback Mike Gassert with 7:37 to play to take a 27-13 lead. Young gained 61 yards on 10 attempts, while Gassert powered for 42 yards inside as part of a 300-yard rushing effort.
“(Our coaches) gave me the ball and (Jackson County) couldn’t stop me,” Young said afterward outside the locker room. “My line blocks so well — there’s holes as big as this hallway — it’s pretty easy to run through.”
Disterhaupt, the Rebels’ Division I recruit, sat out most of the final two drives. Admittedly winded from playing both ways in a heated environment, Disterhaupt said it was team strategy to put in Young.
“We took a risk by getting rid of something they were keying on (me) and seeing how they would respond,” Disterhaupt said. “And it was very effective. Jerry is a great running back — he’s short and super shifty. That’s what we needed, a little more surprise at the end. ”
Young carried four more times on the Rebels’ final drive, which ended on a failed fourth down at the Huskies’ 25 but took more than four minutes off the clock and forced Jackson County Central (10-3) to use all its timeouts.
“We have great athletic ability at wingback — five really good seniors that all should get carries,” Louzek said. “B.J. really stepped up. Having him in there was a little different look than Jake, and it took away their keys. Jackson County really keyed on Jake — and most teams are going to, obviously — but that threw them a curveball that they weren’t expecting.”
The Rebels then held on four downs to secure their 26th straight non-Prep Bowl victory.
“I thought we still had a real good chance to win (on that final drive),” Huskies coach Tom Schuller said. “We certainly would have gone for two if we had scored.”
Moose Lake-Willow River overcame two fumbled snaps on punt attempts in the first half to take a 20-13 halftime lead.
Running back Michael Pender capped two long scoring drives with touchdown runs and Disterhaupt added another from 27 yards.
“We killed ourselves with some mistakes in the first half that made it closer than it should have been, I think,” said Pender, who finished with 87 yards rushing on 24 carries. “But we faced adversity and came back.”
Jackson County’s Darick Vancura, who entered the game with 1,624 yards rushing, gained 182 and scored twice to push him over 1,800 yards on the season.
Moose Lake-WR 7-13-0-7—27
Jackson CC 7-6-0-7—20
JCC — Spencer Johnson 2 run (Taylor Christopher kick)
MLWR — Michael Pender 10 run (Ben Moonen kick)
MLWR — Pender 2 run (kick blocked)
JCC — Darick Vancura 5 run (kick blocked)
MLWR — Jake Disterhaupt 27 run (Moonen kick)
MLWR — Mike Gassert 4 run (Moonen kick)
JCC — Vancura 30 run (Christopher kick)
INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS RUSHING: MLWR — Jake Disterhaupt 20-105, Michael Pender 24-87, B.J. Young 10-61, Mike Gassert 10-42, Ben Moonen 2-(-43); JCC — Darick Vancura 23-182, Tanner Menke 8-44, Darnell Taylor-Breck 1-2, Paden Moore 1-2, Spencer Johnson 1-2.
PASSING: MLWR — Tony Adamczak 6-8-0-89; JCC — Menke 6-17-0-45.
RECEIVING: MLWR — Disterhaupt 5-68, Isaac Coil 1-21; JCC — Shadrach Wacker 4-39, Travis Beeck 1-5, Taylor Christopher 1-1.