Caledonia kick ends season for Moose Lake-Willow River
Whether it be on the flood plane trying to save the sewer pumps, hockey rink and school, pumping iron endlessly in the summer, or voluntarily staying after practice to flip tractor tires on the once-submerged baseball field, the Rebels boys have been and always will be forever a football family and great citizens and champions of their community.
Head Coach Dave Louzek’s boys turning to fine young men brought home their third runner-up hardware in a four-year period to set themselves ahead of other football accomplishments by any other group of guys in Moose Lake-Willow River history.
The 13-1 Rebels got their "one team, one dream" opportunity to play for a Prep Bowl Championship at the Metrodome on November 23 against the now three-peat 14-0 Caledonia Warriors. The Rebels had done their work, sacrificed their blood and sweat, and were ready for the Warriors. Right before the game, each player quietly examined their souls or prepared themselves as however they might, from listening to soft music laying in the locker room to the head banging often heard at practices. The team listened to a brief sports psychology talk on sacrificing to be successful right before taking to the field.
It certainly did not end in a the 27-0 tally of last year’s game. This game, in which the Rebels kept stemming the tide all the way in, at one time lead 7-6 in the first quarter and 22-15 in the third quarter, went down to a one-second 24-yard field goal as Caledonia literally escaped with a 25-22 win with no time left on the clock. The two main determining factors in the game came down to time of possession and field position, first down and third down conversions.
The total time of possession at the end of the game had been 27:47 to 20:13. The average field position had been 43 to 22. The first downs had been 15-6. The third down conversions had been 8 of 17 to 5 of 13. The fourth down conversions had been 2 of 3 to 0 of 0. All these important stats had been in Caledonia’s columns. Caledonia had 196 to 149 for net yards rushing. Caledonia had 131 net yards passing. The Rebels had 84 yards net passing. Caledonia had 327 yards of total offense and had run 66 plays, while the Rebels had 233 total offensive yards and 43 total offensive plays.
Moose Lake-Willow River won the first quarter time of possession at 6:44 to 5:16 and the third down conversions at 2-4 versus 1-2, despite Caledonia winning the first down battle at 3-2. Neither team had a fourth down attempt. The Rebels rushed 12 times for 28 yards while the Warriors ran the ball seven times for 19 yards. Caledonia came out firing with 3-for-8 passing with 31 yards, but with one interception by Ben Moonen that would set up ML-WR’s touchdown on a two-yard sprint to inside the left pylon by D1 recruit Jake Disterhaupt. Moonen’s perfect extra-point kick lifted ML-WR to a 7-6 lead at 2:12. Caledonia had earlier scored on a one-yard submarine under the middle by Brad Strub, but as Mason Ashbacher’s kick was pulled way wide right it was 6-0 for the Warriors at 7:38.
The hard fought second quarter that featured only a field goal for the Warriors was a tribute to the Rebels' defense as they were on the field for 7:32 compared to 4:28 of time of possessions for ML-WR. Warrior Levi Schmitz’s boomer sailed high and well into the net for a 36-yarder and a 9-7 Warriors lead at 7:06. Caledonia went 3-for-6 on third down conversions while the Rebels went 0-for-3 on that stat. Again, neither team attempted a fourth-down conversion. The Warriors rushed the ball 14 times for 68 yards while the Rebels got only six rushing attempts and gained only 14 yards. The Warriors attempted only 2-for-4 passing for 61 yards and no interceptions and their last attempt took just that one play as it went from quarterback Alex Varney to Strub for 25 yards. The Warriors switched it up and brought in Schmitz to kick the PAT, but Rebel Disterhaupt zipped around from the right side, stretched out on the lunge and solidly blocked the kick for 15-7, rather than 16-7 Caledonia. The Rebels would later be able to stand up under adversity to score 15 unanswered third quarter points, including a huge two-point conversion, to knot the game at 15-15 and then take what looked to be good momentum with a 22-15 lead into the fourth frame.
What the Rebels were able to do in the third quarter was against the odds in terms of time of possession as Caledonia possessed the ball for 6:48 to 5:07. ML-WR, though, converted on two of three third downs and really showcased their ability to run and throw the ball for large yards. The Rebels ran nine times for 95 yards. One of those runs covered a cut and a broken tackle through the right side by Disterhaupt that covered 71 yards for a electrifying TD. Rebel Michael Pender went in almost untouched and the Rebels had deadlocked it 15-15 at 6:50 with the four-play drive covering 86 yards and taking only 1:46 off the clock. The pass for lead would be next. Tony Adamczak caught Isaac Coil virtually all alone down the left side and Coil used his speed for the rest. The kick by Moonen was true and ML-WR was up 22-15 at 2:41. The drive had covered only three plays and 87 yards. The Rebels had converted two of three third downs to Caledonia’s zero of two. Neither team had a fourth down attempt. The Rebels had won the passing game at 1-for-1 for 84 yards and no interception and one touchdown while the Warriors went 2-for-2 for 29 yards, but no scores.
The Rebels would start the final frame with tough field position but would stem the tide. Varney cracked off a rush for 14 to ML-WR’s 31 for a first and Rebel Pender stropped. Warrior Varney called his own number twice in succession to the 24. Facing a third and three, Caledonia called time at 10:54. A Varney pass to Adam Buttell was incomplete with Disterhaupt on the coverage and on fourth and three ML-WR called time at 10:47. The Warriors got a first out of Ryan Pitts on a rush of four to ML-WR’s 20 with Coil, who had 10 tackles for the game to lead the Rebels, getting the stop. Coil stormed in and threw Pitts for a four yard loss, but Zach Kasten rushed for 13 to the Rebels’ 11 with Pender catching up on the play to avoid a likely TD. Varney carried to the Rebels' 10 yard line for a first with Rebel Zach Paull keeping him from more. Kasten got the call on first and goal, but big middle linebacker Brett Hawkins allowed only a yard. Varney found Jacob Swindell on the left flat, but Mike Gassert was there to stop on the six. Strub was stopped by the ML-WR swarm on a middle attempt for no gain and Caledonia called time-out with 7:08 on the clock on fourth and goal.
Rebel Captain Jake Christopherson took care of business and celebrated his success with a jump, whoop and a first pump as Varney got just a yard to the ML-WR two yard line. The Rebels had forced Caledonia to turn it over on downs and continued to lead 22-15 at 7:37.
Starting from their own two, Caledonia nearly had Pender for a safety, but they fought free and forward progress was ruled to the four with Kevin Lapham tackling for the Warriors. The Rebels tried their go-to-man Disterhaupt, but Kasten was having nothing to do with it and spied on the speedster for a two yard loss back to the two. Adamczak had Disterhaupt for a pass that looked like it might get the Rebels some space and closer to a first, but it was high and just off the usually very sticky gloves of the star back. The ball, tipped from its intended receiver, continued on its way and went right into the hands of Varney who had no problem running past one attempted dive at his feet for a stunning touchdown at 1:17. Schmitz’s kick was good past a diving Disterhaupt and in a flash, it had gone from an outstanding goal line stand to poor field position and a tied ball game at 22-22.
Schmitz kicked off 52 yards to the Rebels and Disterhaupt brought it out to the 23. The Rebels got called for an illegal block to move the ball to the their own 13. A drive started at 5:40 with Disterhaupt rushing for five to the 18 with Swindell tackling. Pender got four to the 22 with Sam Schulte stopping. Disterhaupt got a three yard gain against Kasten for a first down to the 25. An Adamczak pass to Coil was incomplete. Disterhaupt was blanked by Kasten. On third and 10, Adamczak tried for Disterhaupt and it was close with Warrior Alex Goetzinger tight on the coverage and no interference called. Disterhaupt had trouble on the punt and after only 22 yards it was downed on Moose Lake-Willow River's own 47 at 3:11.
Buttell rushed for three yards to the Rebels' 44 with Disterhaupt tackling. Varney passed to Buttell for four yards with B.J. Young up quickly. Varney got just three yards against Paull, but it was just enough for a first down on ML-WR’s 37. Pitts was held to a yard by Pender. Varney ran for six outside with Rebel Ezra Szczyrbak stopping. Varney broke free for 15 yards to the Rebels' 15 and Moonen had to save a possible score on the first down. Pitts rushed for six to the Moose Lake-Willow River nine with Young on the tackle. From the right hashmark, Caledonia had Pitts rush for two yards to precisely the middle of the field with Gassert stopping. The Warriors were able to get time-out called with one second on the clock.
The Rebels called time-out to try to ice star kicker Schmitz. Having nailed a 36-yarder in the second quarter for 15-7, the snap was exact, the hold was good and just like that the ball cruised straight through from 24 yards out and the Warriors were three-peat State Class AA champions. The Rebels, having literally given it all on the field, took various forms of stunned disbelief and deep grief.
Following the game, Coach Louzek consoled yet congratulated each as a father would a son. As medals were hung by the coach around each player's neck and heartfelt hugs were exchanged, many said they were sorry. The father of the Rebel football family consistently replied, “You have nothing to be sorry for.” In a post game interview, Disterhaupt was heard saying, “I’m not much about individual stats, I would have done anything to have won this game.” When they arrived back home, each got another hug from the coach.
As far as individual stats, it was a team effort and it was a team loss. Three second-place finishes in a four-year period and two seasons in a row at 13-1 is a record the team and communities can be very proud of.