Football Roundup: Moose Lake-Willow River scrapes past EskoSports writer Tyler Korby focuses on the MLWR vs Esko game, with a roundup of other Carlton County prep football teams
By: Tyler Korby, Pine Journal
The Moose Lake-Willow River football team runs the ball a lot, but even Coach Dave Louzek couldn’t think of the last time his Rebels won without a rushing touchdown.
“Boy,” the 16-year coach said, pondering, “good point.”
The Rebels’ only rushing points came on Josh Pettersen’s two-point conversion last Friday, but it was enough to extend ML-WR’s current 56-game regular-season win streak with an 8-6 victory over rival Esko at Terry Egerdahl Field in Proctor.
In a Great Polar Alliance White game where scoring was secondary to defense, Esko running back Brandt Hintsala headed around the left side for a 20-yard touchdown to cap Esko’s six-play, 60-yard opening drive and only score.
Three drives later, Pettersen’s eventual game-winning dive up the middle came with 28 seconds left in the first quarter, one play after quarterback Brad Fossum’s 6-yard touchdown pass on a fade route to tight end Ike Pederson.
From that point ensued 36-plus minutes of scoreless football, despite Esko (0-2) having several red zone opportunities to snap a Rebels’ regular-season win spurt no one has solved.
“They definitely had us on the ropes,” Louzek said.
“This would’ve been the year we would’ve taken them,” said Esko Coach Bill Hudspith. “We have to go back to the drawing board, eliminate some mistakes and fix things. We stopped ourselves tonight. We didn’t do it on the field.”
Esko’s newly constructed field is set to open on Sept. 27.
“We finally get to go home,” Hudspith said with a sigh.
Both rival schools sighted sputtering offenses and turnovers last week, but each defense was deadening, especially ML-WR, rallying around passion and play-making.
“We knew we had to make stops,” said Moose Lake senior middle linebacker Brett Hawkins. “After [Hintsala] scored, we said ‘They’re not scoring again — that’s it.’
“They could have one,” he continued, “but not another.”
Another win kept the Rebels (2-0) unbeaten, despite having just three returning starters from last year. Pederson, a senior in his first-year starting, said he was never nervous.
“I never blinked,” he said. “I knew we’d come back.”
“When you’re young and inexperienced, it’s easy to fold under this kind of pressure, but already, we’ve shown we can handle that,” Louzek said. “Now we have to gain confidence.”
And perhaps a few rushing scores to add to their defense.
“It always feels good to beat Esko,” Hawkins said delightedly of the close game. “I would have liked to keep them at zero, but we held them to six. And we scored eight.”
Barnum (2-0) blanked host East Central 28-0 last Friday in Sandstone. The Bombers bagged three touchdown runs from Brandon Newman and another from 104-yard rusher Cody Shelgren to go with Colton Ziegler’s blocked punt and pick.
Carlton (0-2) couldn’t score in a 52-0 shutout loss at Nevis last Friday. However, Dominic Bennett, Nick Lee and Cade Pearson had 17 tackles, three sacks, an interception and fumble between them.
Cloquet (2-0) creamed International Falls 46-12 last Friday at Bromberg Field, as the Lumberjacks’ Henry Backus ran for 113 yards and three TDs among 412 yards of total offense.
Cromwell-Wright (2-0) whizzed past Lake of the Woods 27-6 last Friday near the Canadian border. The Cards created a 27-point halftime lead by Zion Smith’s two TD passes. Hunter Rauvola, Tristan Johnson and Austin Pfistner contributed as well.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe opened football several weeks ago, as the young Ogichidaa have 17 players out for their junior varsity-only team, according to second-year Coach Christopher King last week. All home games will be played in Cloquet.
South Ridge (2-0) rolled by Cherry 48-8 last Friday in Iron. The Panthers’ Kody Karppinen threw for 268 yards and four TDs, three of them to 152-yard wide receiver Drew Janke.
Wrenshall (0-2) was up at halftime, but seven turnovers led to the Wrens’ 30-7 defeat to Hill City at Wrenshall last Friday. Dustin Shelton had the only score in the second quarter.