The 8-0 Rebels once again showed they can pass to score. Moose Lake-Willow River used both barrels of Andy Dahl’s offense to pass and run their way to a combined 370 yards of total offense to shoot down the Aitkin Gobblers by a score of 42-0 in the last regular season game at Willow River on Wednesday, October 17. The Rebels actually had more yards in the air than did on the ground — perhaps a ML-WR first.
Tony Adamczak had quite a night — maybe a record night. Not since the days of Cameron hitting Dan Anderson have the Rebels showed such power passing. The senior 140-pound signal caller proved he can stand in the pocket provided by the Rebels’ offensive line and throw some beautiful passes for big yards. Adamczak’s accuracy was sharp as could be. He went 8-for-11 on the night with two TD passes of 100 yards worth of his outstanding 177 yards in the air. Adamczak’s two TDs went to Michael Pender for 40 yards and to Jake Disterhaupt for 60 yards.
Disterhaupt ended up with two receptions for 72 yards and a TD. Layne Johnson had three receptions for 42 yards. Pender had his one TD catch for 40 yards and Isaac Coil had two catches for 39 yards.
The Rebels' main runners ran 28 times to go along with the passes. Disterhaupt led the way in terms of yards with 97 yards on just eight carries (12.13 per carry) as he was put outside as a flanker/wide receiver for most of the evening. Pender, who is also high among the area’s rushers, scorers and all-purpose yards leaders, lit up the scoreboard with two rushing TDs to go along with his touchdown reception. Pender carried 12 times for 51 yards (4.25 per touch). Michael Gassert added 29 yards on eight carries (3.63 per carry). Ben Moonen went 4-for-5 on points after for the night.
Defensively, it was senior captain Jake Christopherson playing another fine game. The 255-pounder had a team-leading seven stops and he had one of the Rebels' two quarterback sacks. Zach Paull, with four tackles, had the other. Coil contained the outside well as he patrolled the area for five stops and he was in on a lot of hurries on Aitkin’s quarterback, as was junior 6'5" and 210-pound Ezra Szczyrbak, who made it miserable to try to run around or throw over. Matt Bednar jumped on an errant pitch for a fumble recovery as the game was winding down.
The special teams also got in the action. B.J. Young returned a punt 40 yards for a birthday touchdown.
And as far as special teams go, it was Disterhaupt seemingly to have raced up the left side for a score on the opening kick, but a flag brought it back. The Rebels would need only a little over eight minutes to cash in. From the 11, a middle run was an immediate first. Disterhaupt hit the middle left for a few. Pender ran for six and Disterhaupt followed with a first. Pender was pounded for no gain, but a nicely executed screen to the right netted Disterhaupt and the Rebels a first at 7:24.
Adamczak almost had his first TD pass of the night. A beautiful bomb down the right side went just off of Disterhaupt’s fingertips. Disterhaupt broke free for a long run to make it first-and-goal. Gassert was stopped in the middle, but Pender squirted through the right side and got over the goal line for 7-0 and Moonen’s kick made it 7-0 at 8:11.
The Gobblers, probably realizing they would gain little ground on the Rebels' running, tried a shot gun formation. It was Szczyrbak and Micah Van Zee applying pressure and Chistopherson starting in fine form with a sack. Soon, with fourth-and-15, the Gobblers elected to punt at 6:40.
Runs by Pender and Disterhaupt only netted a yard, but a nice pass over the middle to a sure-handed Coil in traffic was a first to the 40 at 5:13. The Rebels' second well-executed screen of the game paid dividends as Pender took the nice toss by Adamczak for a 40-yard TD. The kick was good by Moonen and Moose Lake-Willow River had run and passed it's way to a 14-0 lead at 4:28.
Aitkin was able to put together two first downs but soon, following a sack by Rebel senior 245-pound Paull, with help from Coil, the Gobblers were faced with a 4th-and-13.
Young returned the punt from near the 15 to the 34 with 23 ticks left in the quarter. Disterhaupt ran the middle for five yards.
Three first downs in quick succession made it appear ML-WR would score fast in the second stanza, but on a run to the left, Disterhaupt tried to fight for extra yards toward the goal line and lost the ball with Aitkin recovering at 9:25.
The Gobblers went three-and-out and Young set to receive a punt. It was kind of a liner and Young took it on the run, waited for his blockers, made a pair of excellent moves and ran for the 40-yard score on his birthday on the left side. The PAT by Moonen had plenty of height, but missed wide left for 20-0.
The short kick, which may have been designed by James Bohaty and the rest of the kicking minds was knocked out of bounds by Aitkin before the Rebels could pounce. A direct snap to Gobbler Jake Lynn lost a yard with Paull on the stop. A short pass was held to just three by Gassert. On a scrambling pass intended to go over the middle, Brett Hawkins leveled Lynn. Lynn showed his long leg this time and it was a fantastic high boot all the way to the 26 ay 6:25.
The Rebels took only two minutes and ten seconds to score. Pender went across the 30. Gassert fought for extra yards for third-and-one. Adamczak and the Rebels came though with a fine, quick out and on the little, nice touch-swing pass, Disterhaupt did the rest with a broken tackle and one final stiff arm. The kick was true this time and ML-WR moved forward to a 27-0 lead at 4:35.
There was no more scoring and the defensive half ended with Szczyrbak on yet another hurry for an incomplete pass by Gobbler QB Lynn, intended for Peter Zasmeta on the left flat. With seven seconds remaining, ML-WR calmly took a knee. The Rebels were taking care of business on both sides of the ball and were up 27-0.
Bohaty and his boys had a plan. Young blasted a boot directly off the shins, up an up, back and Young recovered his own trickery at 11:48.
The Rebels would not convert the turnover nor would Aitkin be able to sustain a drive. The punt was another boomer and ML-WR operated from the 17 at 8:47. Pender broke a tackle to the 46. A pass to Johnson was good for a first. Pender ran for six to across the Gobblers' 40. The Rebels suffered one of their few penalties, an illegal procedure. Young ran a good gainer to the 26 at 6:54.
Adamczak rocketed a bullet to Johnson and Johnson made a good catch over the middle. Young ducked under for a few. Gassert fought very hard to try to reach the end zone, but it was ruled down at the 1. Pender had no gain against Gobbler senior 200-pounder Adam Bast as he was stood up once. On the next play, Pender got in for his third score of the evening. Moonen nailed the kick for 34-0 at 4:23.
Aitkin went three-and-out. Reserves such as Alex Kenemore and Teddy Ryan entered and Moonen took some reps at running back as well with Brad Fossum playing quarterback. Moonen got a first down to close the quarter.
ML-WR would sustain a drive to send it into running time by rule. Kenemore would run around the right side for eight to the 14. Kenemore ran it again for a first down. Moonen took it to the 12. Fossum was thrown for a loss. A fumble on a counter ended up netting a yard. Kenemore went for a first down and got the call for a TD on the right side from a yard out. Dylan Lovegreen took in the two-point around the right side for 42-0.
There was no more scoring, but Bednar did get a fumble recovery as he alertly covered a faulty pitch on the right side at 2:25. David Moonen got a carry, but an illegal procedure was one of only a few penalties against ML-WR as they continued to play smarter, more controlled, yet faster and more physical football. Josh Pettersen dragged an attempted shirt tackler for a first down as running time flew by.
Coach Dave Louzek’s Moose Lake-Willow River Rebels finished the regular season undefeated and ran their regular-season home field win streak to 38 and the regular-season win overall win mark to 54. The Rebels, at 8-0, stayed in the second slot on State rankings behind Caledonia (also 8-0). ML-WR, the top seed, should have a simple one against Two Harbors (0-8). They should be able to coast by the winner of 3-5 Rush City or 4-4 Eveleth-Gilbert as they handily defeated each of those teams in the regular season meetings. Furthermore, the Rebels host the day game against the winner of those two teams. Kick-off for that game is 2 p.m. in Willow River on October 27.
Moose Lake-Willow River seems to no longer be a stop-the-run-and-you-can-beat-them team. The passing game is a now a force with Adamczak at the helm and extremely fast receivers such as Disterhaupt. The rest of the catching corps of Young, Pender and Coil can certainly keep defenses honest and save clock if needed in the playoffs. The throwing game is for real and it's a nice mix of post and flag routes, quick outs, screens and slants across the middle.