Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Al Rose
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Rebels bounce back to edge Blue Devils

 

September 14, 2017

Jennifer Szczyrbak

Rebels Dilon Louzek (68), Logan Peterson (61), Adam Dragicevich (89), Ryan Barrett (14) and Trent Juhl (23) on the sack as Barrett caused and recovered the fumble. The score at that time was 20-20 and it set up the game winning touchdown.

The Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels football team proved it is not always the size of the dog in the fight, but it is often the size of the fight in the dog as they bounced back from last week's loss and used superior conditioning to out-last a significantly bigger Blue Devils team. MLWR overcame two first half deficits and a third quarter tie and eventually wore down the opponents, including staving off the Blue Devils' last drive, to earn the 26-20 victory in Virginia on Friday, September 8. The Rebels improved to 1-1. The Blue Devils, after wins over I-Falls and Mesabi East, went to a record of 2-1.

Colton Little did the running and Ian Coil did the gunning. Little rushed for 145 yards on 17 carries (8.53 yards per touch). Little had successive TD runs of 30, 65 and one yard. Coil went 8-for-16, including a 19-yard TD pass to Ryan Barrett.

The Blue Devils drew first blood in the dog fight on their first possession with a five-play, 46-yard drive ending with Beau Foix bursting free from 13 yards out. Following a penalty, Virginia was still able to get the conversion on a run by Nathan Fink for 8-0 at 11:08.

The Rebels responded and answered, using three first downs as part of a six-play, 66-yard drive with an exciting finish as Little took a pitch, sprang to the right side and raced 30 yards for a TD. The conversion attempt on the inside failed for 6-8 at 4:36.

Caleb Bialke, listed as the 13th leading rusher in the Northland, coming in with 109 yards on 19 carries (5.74 per carry) got what would be his only score of the game as he got away on the ensuing kickoff for an 88-yard TD. After a Virginia penalty, a conversion pass failed, but the Blue Devils were up 14-6 at 4:14.

Although a hold, a delay of game and an incomplete pass led to a three-and-out, Little would get the ball right back for the Rebels with a pass interception with less than a minute left in an already action-packed first frame. On the very next play, Little sprinted for a 65-yard TD. The conversion run failed, but MLWR trailed only 12-14 at 0:41.

The first three series between the teams in the second quarter sputtered due, in large, to penalties. Finally, it was the Rebels putting together a 10-play, 70-yard drive for the quarter's only score. Coil and Barrett connected three times with two of the completions coming with MLWR in the hurry-up. The drive culminated on a 19-yard dart by Coil over the middle to hit Barrett on stride for a TD. Little was successful on the conversion run and MLWR had the momentum with a 20-14 lead with 37 seconds before the break.

The Blue Devils had a nine-play, 78-yard drive for the only score of the third quarter. Four first down passes in a row helped move Virginia down the field. Aidan Szczyrbak, who was MLWR's tackling co-leader along with Logan Peterson, tossed Bialke for a two-yard loss, but on third-and-seven the Blue Devils were able to get a 12-yard TD on a pass from Jack Zupeta to Tommy Carmody. The conversion pass attempt was batted away by Little at 4:03. The game stayed knotted up at 20-20 heading into the fourth quarter.

Each team was hampered by a penalty and traded a three-and-out. Coil booted his third big punt of the game and pinned Virginia inside its own 15 yard line. After a short run and an incomplete pass, disaster struck the Blue Devils as the Rebels defense caused a fumble and recovered to get the ball back for the offense at Virginia's 17 yard line at 7:33.

Little appeared to have a first down at the six yard line, but a hold called it back and a run lost two yards. On 4th-and-17, a pass down the middle from Coil to Barrett was right on the mark for a first down on the five yard line as MLWR converted a fourth down for the second time in the game. It took just two runs by Little to get what would hold up to be his game-winning one-yard TD. Although the two-point attempt failed, MLWR had taken a 26-20 lead at 5:00.

The Rebels pass defense stepped up big in the last five minutes. With MLWR pretty much containing Bialke and company, the Blue Devils attempted to shake off an illegal procedure and a holding penalty, but completed only two of nine passes for first downs. Trent Juhl made an excellent play to poke a first-down loose, Little blanketed a receiver and Thomas Gulso had the final coverage on a fourth-and-17 Hail Mary. It gave MLWR the chance to take one knee, call time out and get Beau Moffett into the game for the joy of going on a romp around the left side in front of cheering fans as he was escorted by members of his Rebels football family.

The Rebels play another big-school team as they host the 0-2 International Falls Broncos in Willow River on Friday, September 15, at 7 p.m. The Broncos, who lost 15-6 to 1-1 Aitkin on September 8, are somewhat of an unknown entity as MLWR has not played them since about 2004.

 

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