Smith, Mustangs giddy-up past Rebels
WILLOW RIVER — Come spring, Jonathon Smith said he runs several sprints, relays and does the pole vault in track and field.
"I'm a busy man," the versatile Mora senior said.
The Mustangs' standout is just as busy on the football field each fall, as evident Friday, Sept. 28, when Smith rushed for 329 yards and four touchdowns to lead fifth-ranked Mora by Moose Lake-Willow River 51-30 in a game where he never slowed down.
Smith, who carried the ball 19 times for a dizzying average of 17.3 yards a touch, ran for scores of 65, 44, 2 and 78 yards, making the always well-crowded Frank Magdziarz Field in Willow River look more like a track surface than a football venue.
No wonder the 5-foot-11, 171-pounder was hoisted in the air by his Mustang teammates after another victory on their perfect season.
"He's very special," Mora coach Troy Erickson said of Smith. "But what we're doing is having 11 men play football — and it takes all 11 for Johnny to spring like that. We're very fortunate."
"I follow my team," Smith said. "We are just one big unit."
Along with the swift-footed Smith, that unit counted 491 total yards, including 469 on the ground, where the Mustangs (5-0) scored — seven touchdowns total — every time they possessed the ball.
"You can't get click much better than that," Smith said.
Adding to Smith's scores — one in the second, third and two in the fourth quarter — classmate Idris Anderson also found the end zone twice and junior Cole Steffen threw a touchdown to Tysonn Peterson. Junior Jaden Ponto also had three 2-point conversions.
"Pick your poison," said ML-WR coach Dave Louzek of the fast-paced Mora offense, which hustles to the line of scrimmage quickly and executes efficiently. "They are very well-coached."
"We just couldn't get them off the field," Rebels' senior Trent Juhl said. "They're the best offensive team we've seen all year."
Speaking of offense, the Rebels (3-2) also added it up, totaling 405 yards in a game where neither team needed to attempt to punt once, 324 yards of which came from the run game via Juhl and Co.
In fact, while the 5-foot-10, 200-pound Juhl had 124 hard-nosed yards on 23 carries, including a 16-yard TD and three conversions, his younger brother, sophomore Blake, ran for 116 yards on 15 attempts and had scores of 15 and 24 yards.
Nonetheless, the public address announcer said the name "Juhl" a lot.
As, too, with Smith, who twice needed just one touch to take the ball scorching down the sideline for a highlight-reel score. Clocked at 4.61 seconds in the 40-yard dash, it didn't take Smith long to help turn a 24-16 halftime lead into a 21-point Mustang win.
He wore a Spiderman shirt under his pads and jersey; perhaps playing the role of a superhero would fit him best.
"We don't have a kid with that kind of speed," Louzek said.
"To get 51 points, we were all so excited," added the humble Smith, deflecting questions about himself toward crediting his path-clearing teammates afterward. "We all just had an awesome night."
If that continues, one could expect Mora back in the Class AAA state tournament, where they lost 34-0 in the quarterfinals to Pequot Lakes last year, but now want another try.
"We want to get back and punch our ticket to the Bank," said Smith, referring to the Minnesota Vikings' U.S. Bank Stadium, which hosts the state semifinals and Prep Bowl each November.
That's where ML-WR got to last fall, losing 28-6 to Pipestone Area in the Class AA semis, yet marked their 11th trip to the state tournament over the last 12 seasons — all under Louzek's guidance.
So, when Louzek was enjoying an ice cream bar and milling around with players, friends and family in the south end zone afterward last week, there was — like always — no Rebels panic.
"We just want to get better each week and we did this week," said Louzek, in his 24th season — 20th as head coach.
"We don't talk about wins and losses," he said. "We talk about winning section championships, because that gets you into the state tournament."
"To play where the Vikings play is an experience of a lifetime," Juhl said. "We're going to do everything we can to get back."
M — Idris Anderson 10 run (Jaden Ponto run)
MLWR — Blake Juhl 15 run (Trent Juhl run)
M — Jonathon Smith 65 run (Anderson run)
MLWR — T. Juhl 16 run (T. Juhl run)
M — Tysonn Peterson 22 pass from Cole Steffen (Ponto run)
M — Smith 44 run (Ponto run)
MLWR — B. Juhl 24 run (run fail)
M — Anderson 10 run (pass fail)
M — Smith 2 run (run fail)
MLWR — Adam Olson 8 pass from Mason Olson (T. Juhl run)
M — Smith 78 run (Derrick Kohlgraf kick)