Moose Lake-Willow River sophomore Jackson Thompson ran for 197 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead the Rebels to a 34-21 win at Esko Thursday, Oct. 14.

Late in the third quarter, Thompson broke off a 43-yard scoring run late in the third quarter to give MLWR the lead and added another from 21 yards out to seal the win.

“Coming into the game we were ready,” Thompson said. “Our blocking was beautiful and our play calls were amazing — our offensive line couldn’t have done any better.”

Play was a little sloppy in the beginning, with Rebels quarterback Mason Olson throwing an interception on the second play from scrimmage. MLWR held the Eskomos on fourth down, but running back Blake Juhl fumbled on a second-and-7 play from the Rebel 28. The turnovers didn’t hurt after Esko quarterback Kevin Gregory fumbled in the backfield on the next play.

“Usually, at this point of the year, we're six or seven games in, so some of that sloppiness is expected,” MLWR coach Dave Louzek said. “It's good to see how a team will respond to that and our team, they didn't start pointing fingers and attacking each other. They came together and answered Esko and answered those turnovers and scored when they needed to, to control the game.”

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Gregory scored on a 4-yard run after a Rebels punt, but Thompson found the end zone for his first score from 30 yards out and gave MLWR its first lead of the game at 8-7.

Olson threw a 70-yard touchdown pass to Landin Kurhajetz in the second quarter, but was intercepted by Javontae Gregory with 2:19 to play in the first half. Esko drove down to the MLWR 7-yard line, but couldn’t get the ball in the end zone before time ran out on the half with the Rebels leading 14-13.

“That was a big, big turning point in the game because if they score there, they get the ball to start the second half,” Louzek said. “If they scored again, they could really blow the game wide open. So for our defense to keep them out of the end zone knowing they get the ball in the second half, that was a huge turning point.”

The Rebels held Esko again on the opening drive of the second half and Louzek called a halfback pass on the ensuing drive, resulting in a 30-yard touchdown catch for Thompson from Logan Orvedahl.

“Esko has pulled that on us a few times and it’s something they’ve had success against us,” Louzek said. “With the athletes we have — we have a running back then that can throw the ball well and he's a threat running the ball. So everybody's going to be attacking.”

Esko took the lead again when Gregory threw a 63-yard pass touchdown pass to Mason Perich. Perich converted the 2-point attempt to give Esko a 21-20 lead midway through the third quarter.

As a senior, Gregory is making just his second start at quarterback, but Esko coach Scott Arntson was pleased with his progress.

“It’s three years in a row we have a senior quarterback that’s never played quarterback, so that part’s getting a little frustrating,” Arntson said. “We want an athlete out there and he does a pretty good job and throws a good ball, so he thought he’d give it a try. He's going to improve every game. He was better today than he was last week and he's going to be better next week. I'm excited about seeing what he's gonna be by the end of the year.”

MLWR (2-0) is next scheduled to play Crosby-Ironton at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23, in Willow River.

Esko (1-1) will play at Pine City at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 23.

Moose Lake-WR 8-6-12-8—34

Esko 7-6-8-0—21

E — Kevin Gregory 4 run (Wyatt Stankiewicz kick)

MLWR — Jackson Thompson 30 run (Logan Orvedahl run)

MLWR — Landin Kurhajetz 70 pass from Mason Olson (run failed)

Esko — Gregory 3 run (kick failed)

MLWR — Thompson 30 pass from Orvedahl (run failed)

Esko — Mason Perich 63 pass from Gregory (Perich run)

MLWR — Thompson 43 run (pass failed)

MLWR — Thompson 21 run (Thompson run)