Lightning energizes Rebels rally past HermantownHIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Fans leaving Thursday night’s prep football game between Hermantown and host Moose Lake-Willow River all shared the same collective thought: What just happened?
By: Louie St. George III, Duluth News Tribune
WILLOW RIVER — Fans leaving Thursday night’s prep football game between Hermantown and host Moose Lake-Willow River all shared the same collective thought: What just happened?
In a game that ended after 11 p.m. — thanks to an hour-long weather delay midway through the third quarter — the Rebels overcame a 20-point halftime deficit en route to a stunning 24-20 victory.
When it was over, Moose Lake-Willow River had survived a severe thunderstorm that spurred a tornado warning for nearby counties while preserving its lengthy regular- season, home and nonconference winning streaks — which now stand at 55, 41 and 25 games, respectively.
As fast as fans bolted from the stadium while lightning lit up the sky and a torrential downpour hammered away, they made a similarly hasty return to watch the conclusion of a game that resumed at 10:20.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been a part of a delay, not like that,” Hermantown coach Daryl Illikainen said from the hallway at Willow River School, where both teams retreated to wait out the storm.
Junior running back Josh Pettersen rewarded the home crowd’s persistence by ripping off 16- and 65-yard TD runs to key a 24-point MLWR outburst in the third quarter. The latter of those touchdown runs stunned Hermantown, which could do no wrong in the first half.
Senior running back Zach Royer rushed 10 times for 116 yards before the break. Royer, along with Casey Ehnes and junior quarterback Kole Zuidmulder scored touchdowns as the Hawks piled up 178 first-half rushing yards.
Zuidmulder was slated to rotate series at QB with senior Tyler Johnson, but the 6-foot-6 junior took nearly every snap, showing off a big arm and nimble feet.
Zuidmulder and the Hawks, though, couldn’t sustain a drive after the break. Royer continued to fluster the Rebels, but MLWR forced a fumble early in the fourth quarter —recovered by Pettersen —that stymied the visitors and allowed the Rebels to impose their resurgent ground game and bleed the clock.
MLWR coach Dave Louzek, interviewed before play started back up, was just happy that his team didn’t wilt in the face of the daunting deficit.
“This whole new group of kids from last year’s team, they didn’t shut down,” Louzek said. “They came back in the second half ready to play and made the adjustments that we needed to make. … As a coach, that’s what you want to see.”
Hermantown’s last-gasp drive ended with Royer being dragged down near midfield, and MLWR players and coaches poured onto the field — helmets whistling through the air — as the buzzer sounded.
Pettersen, flat on his back and being stretched out by a coach after the game, said he never doubted the Rebels.
“We’re not going to skip a beat,” Pettersen said. “Everybody thought we would because we lost 20 seniors or whatever it was, but we’re not skipping a beat.”
H — Casey Ehnes 1 run (kick failed)
H — Zach Royer 23 run (pass failed)
H — safety
H — Kole Zuidmulder 15 run (run failed)
MLWR — Dylan Lovegreen 5 run (David Moonen run)
MLWR — Josh Pettersen 16 run (Lovegreen run)
MLWR — Pettersen 65 run (Lovegreen run)