Rebels run over Hawley on way to MetrodomeMichael Pender, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior, rushed for a game-leading 191 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns in moving ML-WR past Hawley 35-22 in a Class AA state quarterfinal last Friday night in a windy Husky Stadium at St. Cloud State University.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
ST. CLOUD – With a plate and 11 screws in the right wrist he fractured last football season, Moose Lake-Willow River running back Michael Pender brings his own hardware into every Rebel play.
Pender, a 6-foot, 180-pound senior, rushed for a game-leading 191 yards on 27 carries and two touchdowns in moving ML-WR past Hawley 35-22 in a Class AA state quarterfinal last Friday night in a windy Husky Stadium at St. Cloud State University.
Pender explained he runs hard, not only because he’s now returned from his injury, but because the second-ranked unbeaten Rebels (12-0) are seeking the state’s ultimate hardware – a state championship.
“You only get one shot, so you have make the most of it and go hard or go home,” Pender said. “Since that moment standing on the sidelines [last year], I told myself that after I healed up, I’m going to work my butt off until I can get to where I’m at today.”
Today (Nov. 15), ML-WR will clash with Jackson County Central (10-2) in a 2 p.m. state semifinal at the Metrodome in Minneapolis. The rich-tradition Rebels are in their seventh straight state tournament and one win from making their third Prep Bowl appearance in four seasons.
Against the fifth-ranked Nuggets last week, Pender scored the game’s first pair of touchdowns, plunging in from 2 and 3 yards out in the first quarter, before senior Jake Disterhaupt added the next three scores in the second, third and fourth quarters.
The Rebels led 21-14 at halftime before pulling away in a game they never trailed. Disterhaupt caught Tony Adamczak’s only pass of the game for a touchdown, while he ran for 126 yards on 24 attempts.
Hawley was guided by quarterback Jordan Harms’ 145 yards on 5-of-11 passing and two lengthy touchdowns. The Nuggets finished 11-1.
“Ground-and-pound Rebel football is what we like to call this,” said Disterhaupt, a 6-foot-1, 190-pound running back. “We know what works for us. And we’ll stick to it until we have to make changes.”
ML-WR Coach Dave Louzek said no changes were needed last week against Hawley, but also said his team’s power-running, tight-wing scheme can expand into shotgun and split formations as well.
“We might have showed them a fifth of our playbook tonight,” Louzek said. “We’ll save that other stuff for when we need it.”
That could be next week in a potential state title rematch with top-ranked Caledonia – winners of four of the last five Prep Bowls. The Warriors beat the Rebels 27-0 last year and haven’t lost since 2009.
“They’ve been the best; and once someone beats you, you want revenge,” Disterhaupt said of Caledonia. “We don’t want them to lose. They play before we do [today], so we’ll be rooting for them. But if we both take care of business, then it’s no more fun and games.”
“We are wishing the best to Dave and the Rebels,” Hawley Coach Peder Naatz added. “Dave has a good football club up there.”
Louzek said their program’s first-ever-title hopes fuel them each day.
“That’s their drive, for all of these kids,” he said. “We’ll have a two-hour practice, and then they’ll spend another two hours lifting weights and flipping tractor tires. A lot of times they don’t leave until 9:30 or 10 o’clock at night – and that’s every night.”