MINNEAPOLIS — Having won five football games in a row, including four on the brink of elimination, Moose Lake-Willow River was riding a whirlwind of a turnaround and sat one win shy of a fourth Prep Bowl appearance. Then came along Tyl Woelber and Pipestone Area.
That balance has centered Cloquet to yet another undefeated fall, including their fourth state tournament appearance in five years and, finally, a breakthrough to get past the opening round. Historically, this is the farthest the Lumberjacks have gotten in 41 years, when they finished as state runners-up in 1976.
"He was really on fire," said Rebels coach Dave Louzek, now in his 19th season and owning a career record of 176-43. In fact, Little scored on ML-WR's first offensive play, scooting through the line of scrimmage and bursting 53 yards for a touchdown. Come the second quarter, he exploded on scoring runs of 81 and 43 yards as the Rebels led 28-0 at half.
The Cromwell-Wright Cardinals beat Wrenshall Nov. 3 to advance to the state tournament. The Cardinals (11-0) will take on Storm (10-1) Friday, Nov. 10 at 5:30 p.m. at Bemidji State University in a state quarterfinal.
Not only did the two-touchdown victory reignite the Rebels' reign on top of 7AA, but more importantly, it returned ML-WR to a place that has been become much their second home: the state tournament. The red-hot Rebels (6-5), winners of four straight, will face West Central Area (7-4) in a Class AA state quarterfinal Friday at 7 p.m. in Brainerd. <
Never once leaving the court, Sutton also added 25 digs and four blocks in the Vikings (22-5) 17th consecutive — and biggest — victory. Yet, combining with Cook County to win every 7A crown for the past five years — Carlton also won titles in 2013 and 2014 — the gritty Bulldogs (24-6) didn't go down quietly.
With its field surrounded by snow and ice chunks a couple of feet high last Saturday afternoon, Esko Stadium looked rather fitting for the Eskomo's igloo logo at midfield. Because of the weather, Esko was host to four section semifinal games: Rebels vs Bombers, Esko vs Greenway-Nashwauk-Keewatin, Wrenshall vs Cromwell, and Cloquet vs Hermantown.
"We're the small fish in a big pond, but at least we're swimming," said Bushey with a chuckle.
Last year, the Wrens won nine games. This time around, they aim to eclipse that mark by the end of September. "This is definitely the strongest team we've had," said Carlson. "Just because we're [a small school] doesn't mean we can't kick butt sometimes."
Having moved over from old CMS' Herb Drew Pool, which they called home for decades, the Lumberjacks' new abode is second-to-none. The pristine, state-of-the-art venue — listed at 9,800 square feet — offers plenty of light, height and space for CEC's cooperative program of 44 girls. <