Bombers, Rebels rely on the runThe Bombers (7-2) have eased through their past seven games, going unbeaten en route to the Great Polar Alliance Red Conference and top seed in this year’s postseason.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
Standing 5-foot-11 and weighing just 145 pounds, Danny Warpula is nowhere near the size of your typical high school football lineman.
But the Barnum senior running back knows his teammates in the trenches provide more than just height and weight on the game roster.
“It starts with the line,” said Warpula, who has rushed for over 800 yards and 16 touchdowns, including a pair in leading the Bombers past Ogilvie 50-12 in a misty Section 7A opening round game in Barnum Tuesday evening. “They do their job and there is always some place to go. We talk, they talk; it’s a strong bond. They make it pretty easy for us.”
The Bombers (7-2) have eased through their past seven games, going unbeaten en route to the Great Polar Alliance Red Conference and top seed in this year’s postseason. Much of that success can be credited to Warpula, Colton Selix and Zac Carlson’s three-pronged rushing attack. Warpula and Selix have accumulated more than 700 yards on the ground and Carlson over 500 more.
“The line is the key to our team, especially offensively,” said first-year Barnum Coach Brian Robertson following Tuesday’s win. “And if our backs break it open, they can bust a long one. We can put points up on the board in a hurry. All of our guys are confident in what they do.”
That confidence is something that Warpula said is continuing to grow. A special teams member of Barnum’s last state tournament team in 2010, Warpula said the team’s main objective is to return.
“Guys from that last state team felt so good then, and we just want it again,” Warpula said. “We’re fixing our mistakes and getting ready for our next game. Our goal is to get to State. We’ve put in the time.”
A win over Walker-Hackensack-Akeley Saturday at home would place Barnum in the finals potentially against second-seeded league rival Cook County. Barnum toppled the Vikings 30-7 on Sept. 14 in a game that Robertson said was closer than the lopsided score indicated.
“It’d be a very good matchup, but we’re not even thinking about that,” Robertson said. “We’re just focused for our game on Saturday.”
Unbeaten Moose Lake-Willow River (9-0) will also play Saturday after blanking bottom-seeded Two Harbors 40-0 Tuesday in Willow River. The Rebels, ranked second in Class AA, have won the last six 7AA titles and are aiming to win the program’s first-ever state championship.
“Tonight was the start of another 14-game season and championship run,” said Willow River senior running back Jake Disterhaupt. “We all trust each other and you know the guys next to you are always going to do their job. We’re confident every time we step on the field.”
Disterhaupt scored twice Tuesday, while Michael Pender added a trio of scores.
ML-WR Coach Dave Louzek said his team is focused and ready for the playoff season.
“With all of the experiences these kids have had, they realize the target is on their back, and they don’t get rattled, but handle it,” Louzek said, noting their semifinal opponent will be Eveleth-Gilbert Saturday at home. “Things are tuned up a notch now; everything we do is geared towards the playoffs.”
Elsewhere in the playoffs Tuesday, state storied Cromwell-Wright shut out Silver Bay 47-0, while Wrenshall fell to top-seeded South Ridge 40-19 and Carlton closed its season with a 42-6 defeat at host Floodwood.
Esko (6-2), meanwhile, sits as the second seed in the 7AAA bracket, while neighboring Cloquet (5-3) jumped to second spot in 7AAAA after beating Hibbing last week, while Princeton was upset by a point at Foley. Both teams earned opening round byes and will host Saturday games, with the Eskomos welcoming Aitkin to Esko and the Lumberjacks hosting Princeton in Cloquet.
“The bye is a tremendous advantage, we should be ready to go, 100 percent,” said Esko Coach Bill Hudpsith after a late scouting trip Tuesday. “The kids have played hard, but not our best yet. Hopefully that is ahead of us.”
“We feel good about the No. 2 seed,” added Cloquet Coach Tom Lenarz, noting they are getting healthy. “But the teams that have success this time of year are the teams who take care of the football and want to keep playing.”