Rebels remain state’s second-bestToday's Class AA Prep Bowl was a nail biter, as the MLWR Rebels played an even game with Caledonia ... then lost in the final second when the Warriors kicked a field goal to break the tie.
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
MINNEAPOLIS — Levi Schmitz said he didn’t go Black Friday shopping before today’s Prep Bowl, yet it was perhaps the Caledonia kicker who got the best gift of all.
Schmitz sealed the state title when the senior split the uprights on a 24-yard field goal as time expired in Caledonia’s 25-22 win over Moose Lake-Willow River in the Class AA Prep Bowl XXXI Friday afternoon at the Metrodome in Minneapolis.
Schmitz’s right foot finished with a victory sprint, as his game-winning boot brought the top-ranked Warriors (13-0) — which haven’t lost since 2009 — their third straight state championship, including their fourth in the last five seasons.
“We put so many hours in on special teams; I was confident that I was going to be able to put it through,” Schmitz said afterward. “I’ve been kicking for so long, I know exactly how it’s supposed to feel. I didn’t even look up; I knew coming off my foot that it was going in — and I just turned and ran.”
Caledonia ran seven times during their final 9-play, 40-yard drive to set up Schmitz with one second left. ML-WR never had the ball in the final 3:11, falling short of their first-ever state title.
“They showed why they’re champions,” Rebels Coach Dave Louzek said. “That kicker did a great job under the pressure. But that’s why they’re the best-of-the-best. Their kids expect to be in that position — and when they are, they handle it.”
Caledonia handled much of the opening half Friday, leading 15-7 at the break on pair of rushing and receiving touchdowns from Brad Strub, and a 36-yard field goal from Schmitz late in a second quarter in which the Warriors outscored the Rebels 9-zip.
The Rebels’ responded in the third quarter when superstar running back Jake Disterhaupt darted 71 yards for his second touchdown of the day, while teammate Michael Pender plunged in for the two-point conversion to knot things at 15-15.
On their next possession, quarterback Tony Adamczak completed his only pass of the afternoon for an 84-yard touchdown on a lob pass to Isaac Coil, who went untouched down the right sideline. Ben Moonen’s extra point made it 22-15, as Rebels regained the lead shortly before entering the final 12 minutes.
Caledonia then charged 63 yards on 17 plays only to watch Alex Varney’s fourth-and-goal quarterback keeper get stuffed by the Rebels’ Jake Christopherson two yards shy of the end zone.
Three plays later, Adamczak misfired a third-down pass over the reach of Disterhaupt and into Varney, who sprinted 14 yards for the interception return to tie things 22-22 with 5:45 left.
A Rebels’ three-and-out and punt gave the ball back to the Warriors with 3:11 to go; as the state’s best team took over from there. Caledonia called their final timeout with one second, while Louzek countered for ML-WR, looking to ice Schmitz late.
“We did everything we could to get pressure on that kicker and try to get a fingertip or hand on the ball,” Louzek said. “Caledonia just did a great job protecting and getting the kick off.”
“Everybody just did their job and executed at the right time,” added Caledonia Coach Brent Schroeder, who has a 39-1 record in three years with the state-storied Warriors. “It came down to special teams, I guess, today. It’s a third of the game.”
In a game unlike last year’s 27-0 loss to Caledonia in the final, Louzek was positive for his Rebels in finishing as the state’s second-best team in three of the previous four seasons. ML-WR went 13-1.
“It definitely strings,” Louzek said, “but it also provides more motivation. We’ve played Caledonia three times — and we’ve closed the gap now. We gave them every bit that they can handle, that’s for sure. We’ve gotten better as a program — and took another step today.”
Class AA Prep Bowl XXXI:
Moose Lake-WR; 7 – 0 – 15 – 0 — 22
Caledonia; 6 – 9 – 0 – 10 — 25
C — Brad Strub 1 run (Kick failed).
ML-WR — Jake Disterhaupt 2 run (Ben Moonen kick).
C — Levi Schmitz 36 field goal.
C — Strub 25 pass from Alex Varney (Kick blocked).
ML-WR — Disterhaupt 71 run (Michael Pender run).
ML-WR — Isaac Coil 84 pass from Tony Adamczak (Moonen kick).
C — Varney 14 interception return (Schmitz kick).
C — Schmitz 24 field goal.
Rushing — ML-WR — Jake Disterhaupt 14-91, Michael Pender 14-42, B.J. Young 2-9, Mike Gassert 3-7; C — Brad Strub 16-76, Alex Varney 15-64, Ryan Pitts 15-39, Zach Kasten 2-14, Adam Buttell 1-3.
Passing — ML-WR — Tony Adamczak 1-10-2; C — Varney 9-16-1.
Receiving — ML-WR — Isaac Coil 1-84; C — Jacob Swindell 3-22, Alex Goetzinger 2-35, Buttell 2-13, Pitts 1-36, Strub 1-25.