Moose Lake-Willow River backfield trio runs fast, works harderThe Rebels backfield trio of Jake Disterhaupt, Chris Gassert and Josh Cisar has a mix of power and speed like no one else around. As they make their way through the section playoffs, the undefeated Moose Lake - Willow River players are aiming for a state championship this year.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
The Rebels backfield trio of Jake Disterhaupt, Chris Gassert and Josh Cisar has a mix of power and speed like no one else around.
That goes for their workout habits, too.
All three Moose Lake-Willow River football players put in countless hours perfecting their skills on game nights, in the weight room, and even in the weight room after game nights.
“Some games our starters will come out early and you’ll see them in the weight room afterward,” said 13th-year ML-WR Coach Dave Louzek. “All three of those kids are three of our strongest kids in the weight room and three of our fastest kids on the field. They make us, as coaches, look good.”
Everything has looked good for the second-ranked unbeaten Rebels this fall. Sporting a perfect 9-0 record, ML-WR hasn’t scored less than 48 points in any one game, breaking 50 points five times and cracking 60 twice.
Leading the way has been the dynamic trio of Disterhaupt, Gassert and Cisar. The speedy wingback Disterhaupt has a Northland-best 29 touchdowns and nearly 1,500 rushing yards, while fellow wingback Gassert and fullback running mate Cisar each posted over 800 yards on the ground with Cisar adding 15 scores and Gassert with 12 more.
This fall alone, the Rebels have totaled four of the state’s top-six all-time single game team rushing records, scampering for at least 523 total yards on four occasions.
“We usually have one or two good running backs,” said Louzek, “but never have we had three so interchangeable and so deadly. If they get around the corner, no one is catching them.
“You can’t load up the middle because they’ll take it outside and if you go outside, they can run right up the middle,” he continued. “That combination of speed and power is something, as a coach, you’re always looking for.”
The shifty 5-foot-8, 170-pound Gassert can run for speed, yet standing a burly 6-foot-1 and 190, Cisar can counter for power. Meanwhile, Disterhaupt’s game-changing elusiveness like is just as effective, as the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Willow River junior can even run the option or an inside handoff under center at quarterback.
But how do they do it? That answer is easy.
“The offensive line, definitely,” Disterhaupt said, in unison with his fellow running mates. “I mean, any running back could have these types of numbers. All I have to do is be fast, that’s all. I give all the credit to the offensive line.”
“We’re basically running the ball in the open field,” added Gassert, a senior at Moose Lake. “Not only do they get a good push on the line, but they’re downfield making blocks, too. They make it easy.”
Louzek said that traditionally, his run-first offense likes to control the ball and eat away the clock with long, time-consuming drives. With their guys up front and strong speed demons in the back this fall, that hasn’t been possible.
“We’re usually used to 3 yards, 5 yards, 6 yards,” Louzek said. “But our drives have been ‘two plays, 70 yards’ I don’t know how many times this year. But it does start with our offensive line.”
Running ragged, sending most games into running time, the Rebels coasted their way to a fifth consecutive Great Polar White Conference title this season, while they have strung together numerous win streaks dating years back. Yet, all that matters to them is state.
“We don’t even talk about those streaks, not at all,” Louzek said. “Those things are nice, but they aren’t important to us, if they are not helping us get to the state tournament. Now is the time of year when games matter. Now, it’s go time.”
The Rebels have won the section and gone to state every year since 2005, and they blitzed winless Duluth Marshall 55-16 Tuesday night in their playoff opener to begin yet another November march. But Cisar knows they can’t get complacent.
“We can’t overlook anyone,” said the Moose Lake senior. “We just have to remain confident. Our team has a lot of chemistry and quite a bit of talent. We have a good shot.”
“Now it is do-or-die,” added Gassert. “Streaks are nice, but I’d trade them all in for a state championship. We prepare each week like it’s the state championship game.”
The Rebels’ highest football finish came in a 2009 Prep Bowl loss to Waterville-Elysian-Morristown, currently the only team ranked higher than ML-WR in the polls. Playing like they have all year, the Rebels might be on a collision course for a much-anticipated rematch.
“We’d like that,” said Louzek.
“I’d say athletically, this is one of the better teams we’ve had, by far,” Disterhaupt added. “I think we actually have a legitimate shot if we put in the hours.”
That has been evident, even last week.
Cisar said although school was out last Thursday and Friday for MEA break, they practiced each day. Gassert added that some guys even go flip tires after practice at the baseball field.
“We make a lot of sacrifices,” said Cisar, who – along with Disterhaupt and Gassert – was a member of the 2009 runner-up squad that fell just short of the program’s ultimate goal.
“We have a team that is committed,” added Gassert. “If we want to have a shot at our goal, the state championship, we have to put in the time.”