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Prep football: Matchup with Barnesville a season-long focus for MLWR

The Rebels will face the Trojans in the Minnesota Class AA quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Cloud Tech High School.

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Moose Lake/Willow River's Jaxsyn Schmidt carries the ball in the Rebels' 25-0 win over Crosby-Ironton in the Section 7AA championship Thursday, Nov. 3, in Esko. The Rebels will play Barnesville in the Class AA quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Thursday in St. Cloud.
Steve Kohls / Forum News Service
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WILLOW RIVER — Even though Barnesville wasn’t on Moose Lake/Willow River’s regular season schedule, they’ve been on Rebels’ minds all season.

Four years ago, MLWR played the Trojans in the Class AA quarterfinal and lost 40-0 and much of the Rebels 2022 campaign has been focused on being ready for a rematch.

“This year, starting from day one of practice, our focus has been talking about being prepared for Barnesville,” coach Dave Louzek said. “We knew we’d match up with Section 8 and we figured Barnesville was the team that would come out of Section 8. We’ve spent a whole season preparing our kids for the level of football that Barnesville plays because we’re going to have to play our best game of the year by far to even give them a ballgame.”

Jaxsyn Schmidt ran for 174 yards in just the first half.

MLWR will play Barnesville again in the 2022 Class AA quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Thursday at St. Cloud Tech High School.

The Trojans run a Power T offense where three running backs line up about 5 yards behind the quarterback. After the snap, the quarterback turns his back to the defense for the handoff, making it difficult to tell who has the ball.

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“You don’t know which one of the three running backs has the ball or if the quarterback keeps it going to the outside,” Louzek said. “So our defense has to be really disciplined and different parts of our defense are assigned to different parts of their offense and everybody’s got to do their job and make their reads because it’s a lot of misdirection.”

MLWR junior running back and linebacker Jaxsyn Schmidt knows the Power T is tough to stop, but believes the Rebels' work throughout the season will pay off Thursday.

“It’s the game to get to (U.S. Bank Stadium) and advance another round,” Schmidt said. “It’s really been emphasized how important this game is all season and preparing for this offense. It’s a hard offense to stop with all the fakes and everything. It’s hard to pick up, but we’ve been focusing on it all season, so I think we should be able to stop it.”

Offensively, the Rebels must avoid mistakes and try to generate drives that keep the Trojans’ attack off the field.

“The biggest things are we can’t fumble the ball and we can’t have penalties — two things that have plagued us at different points during the season,” Louzek said. “At a state-level football game, we can’t afford to make a single mistake. Our offense has got to protect the ball and not get any penalties. But the real key is going to be really long, sustaining drives, getting 3-4 yards a carry and just getting that physical push and slowly moving the ball down the field.”

Schmidt knows MLWR needs to limit mistakes and turnovers, but they also need to do what they do best.

“We’re just going to go out there and be fast and physical,” Schmidt said. “I don’t know what their plan to stop it, but that’s all we’re going to do — be fast and physical every play.”

Moose Lake/Willow River vs. Barnesville

What: Minnesota Class AA football quarterfinal
When: 7 p.m. Thursday
Where: St. Cloud Tech High School
Weather: Rainy with a high of 53 degrees
Records: MLWR 9-1; Barnesville 10-0
Radio: WMOZ 106.9 FM

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Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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