Streak snapped, Rebels remain motivated
HERMANTOWN--There weren't any tears on the sideline Thursday after the Moose Lake-Willow River football team lost its first regular season game in nearly eight years -- only determination to do better.
HERMANTOWN-There weren’t any tears on the sideline Thursday after the Moose Lake-Willow River football team lost its first regular season game in nearly eight years - only determination to do better.
After being bettered 25-24 by host Hermantown on high school football opening night at Corey Veech Memorial Field last week, the gritty Rebels packed up and rode their school buses home to lift weights and flip tractor tires in the dark.
The end of the Rebels’ 62-straight regular-season game winning streak only made their players work harder.
One of those players, senior quarterback Brad Fossum, who threw for 147 yards - including a 64-yard touchdown pass to classmate Josh Pettersen - was upbeat afterward, saying he and his teammates would be up late.
“I’m usually not out of [the locker room] until 1 in the morning,” Fossum said. “We’ll be working twice as hard.”
The Rebels’ remarkable streak, which spanned more than eight seasons, began with a 15-0 shutout loss to visiting Deer River back on Sept. 8, 2006.
Also last week, ML-WR (0-1) ended its lengthy stretch of 27 straight nonconference victories, as well as 38 consecutive wins away from home.
And still, after a long - and encouraging - talk with his team, 16th-year Coach Dave Louzek and his Rebels remain extremely confident and motivated.
“I told them I’ve been saving this speech for 62 regular-season games,” said Louzek, in his 16th season. “There are only two bad losses out there. One bad loss is when you lose in playoffs, because your season is done and you don’t get to come back. The other bad loss is the one you don’t get better from. If this motivates us to get better, it’s a great loss for us.”
The entertaining game included six lead changes between the pair of prize-fighting teams. Leading 19-16 at halftime, Hermantown triumphed on the shoulders of senior quarterback Kole Zuidmulder, a strapping 6-foot-6, 215-pound playmaker, who rushed for all four of the Hawks' touchdowns, including the eventual winner on his 1-yard plunge with 6:51 remaining.
Moose Lake-Willow River - recording TDs via Petterson, along with Milan Dragicevich and Bryceton Butkiewicz - had a chance late, but a holding penalty stalled a promising drive and defeat set in.
Friday, the Rebels host rival Esko at 7 p.m. in Willow River, seeking to uphold their current 45-home-game winning streak.
Zuidmulder, a fourth-grader the last time the Rebels were defeated in the regular season, admired his opponents after the game.
“I have all the respect in the world for them,” Zuidmulder said. “They come in every year expecting to be the best.”
“We knew after last year, we can’t take them lightly,” added Hawks Coach Daryl Illikainen, who saw the Rebels win last season’s lightning-delayed game 24-20 after trailing 20-0 at halftime. “You have to be ready for a team like that.”
A team that stays up late after all games, but even later following last week's result.
A positive Pettersen later Tweeted that he flipped tires until going to bed at 1:48 a.m.
“I’ll flip them until I’m too tired to flip them,” he said.
Barnum (0-1) battled Rush City, but were tamed by the Tigers in a 20-16 nonconference defeat at home last Friday. The Bombers, ahead 8-6 at halftime before allowing two third-quarter scores, were paced by touchdown runs from Mitchell Weller and Chris Carlson.
Carlton (0-1) couldn't keep up with Northome-Kelliher, as host Bulldogs were buried by the Mustangs 38-8 in a Great Northern Conference 9-Man loss last Friday. Carlton, winless a season ago, scored only on Jaryd Soukkala's 39-yard touchdown run.
Cromwell-Wright (1-0) had no problem taking Hill City, as the Cardinals creamed the host Hornets 36-0 in a Great Northern Conference 9-Man shutout win last Friday. Cromwell-Wright's athletic offense is as advertised, with Zion Smith finding Austin Pfisthner for 43- and 65-yard receiving scores, while Tyler Hakamaki added touchdown runs of 1, 2 and 62 yards.
Fond du Lac Ojibwe offered junior varsity football a season ago, but after organization setbacks, the Ogichidaa will not have a program this fall, according to athletic director Earl Otis late Tuesday.
South Ridge (1-0) ran past Littlefork-Big Falls 22-0 in a Big North Conference 9-Man victory in Culver last Friday. The Panthers, much more run-happy opposed to their point-piling passing attack from previous years, got short touchdown runs by backfield mates Reid Clark, Zach Johnson and Lane Maranell.
Wrenshall (1-0) wasted no time in winning, when the visiting Wrens whipped Northland-Remer in a 41-0 Great Northern Conference 9-Man shutout victory last Thursday. Wrenshall, with only 17 players, was headed by Hunter Pauly's 183 yards rushing on 10 carries, including touchdowns of 35, 13, 55 and 12 yards, while teammate Justin O'Conner scored on a 30-yard run and 9-yard pass from Luke Vine.
FDLTCC (1-1) found the win column for the first time this fall when the Thunder topped Minnesota West Community College 16-13 in a Minnesota College Athletic Conference win at Esko Stadium on Saturday. The Thunder was guided by Jamie Fore - named the Northern Division's player of the week - who had an interception to go along with an 87-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown. FDLTCC also record 10-plus sacks total as a team. FDLTCC is on a bye week and won't play until Sept. 11 at Vermilion Community College in Ely.