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

By Al Rose
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Rebels end season in semifinal

 

November 23, 2017

Jennifer Szczyrbak

The Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels football players give credit to their fans for an impressive season following a heartbreaking 28-6 loss to the Pipestone Area Arrows in the Class AA semifinal game at U.S. Bank Stadium.

The Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels football team had far superior yardage with the running game, but fell 28-6 to the Pipestone Area Arrows' very potent passing game in the Class AA semifinal game played at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minnepolis on Friday, November 17.

MLWR, with an extremely determined and impressive string of five wins in a row, finished with a record of 7-6 and joined the Rebels of 2000, 2006 and 2008 as semifinalists. Pipestone Area advanced with a record of 12-1 and will have the daunting task of trying to de-throne perennial powerhouse and defending champion 12-0 Caledonia on Friday, November 24.

The Rebels, with 304 yards of total offense and 231 yards on the ground, had just 37 less yards of total offense and 16 first downs as compared to eight first downs for Pipestone Area. Not being able to finish drives was one big stumbling block for MLWR. The Rebels had come in averaging 3.4 fourth-down conversions in their last five games, but MLWR only went 1-for-4 against the Arrows. The most painful failed fourth-down conversion came as the Rebels had won the toss and deferred and received in the second half. MLWR, still very much in the game and down only 20-6, worked it all the way to the 16-yard line but was not able to score.

The Rebels’ ground-game defense did an outstanding job. Pipestone Area had a minuscule 45 yards rushing and only a one-yard rushing TD for the Arrows’ final score.

It was the Rebels getting the first quarter’s only score as they converted the Arrows’ only turnover on a fumble recovered by junior Anakin Oswald. The Rebels used three first-down runs by junior Trent Juhl on an eight-play, 47-yard drive. Juhl, coming in averaging 5.77 yards per carry and with seven touchdowns, followed a block by Oswald on a counter to the right side and scored from four yards out. The two-point try was denied, but MLWR had converted the fumble to lead 6-0 at 3:11. Juhl ended up leading the Rebels with 136 yards on 24 carries (5.67 per carry).

Adam Dragicevich’s bouncing boot almost skittered to a yard from the goal line, but it became a touchback. The Rebels escaped a near miss on a first-down long launch by the Arrows’ standout junior quarterback, Cody Thompson. Logan Peterson set a solid tone by planting a run for no gain. The slightly rattled Arrows had one of their two false starts. Thompson fired a first-down middle slant, but it would be MLWR ending the quarter on a high note as Peterson got another stop for no gain and senior defensive end Ryan Barrett got the Rebels’ only QB sack.

Pipestone Area would end up with two personal fouls for facemasks for a total of 40 yards. MLWR had it lowest penalty count and yards going the wrong way of the season with only four for 25 yards and no personal fouls. MLWR had only one hold, but it did stall a key drive.

Peterson would go on to get two tackles-for-loss, one more tackle for no gain and two assisted tackles-for-loss with one with Dilon Louzek and one with Aidan Szczyrbak and Eli Werner. Although Peterson is an offensive lineman and still only a junior, he is already in the middle of the pack of 10 all-time tacklers.

Louzek was listed as MLWR’s top stopper for the game as he was credited with three solos and eight assists. Louzek, a senior inside linebacker, unofficially closed his career as the Rebels’ third-leading tackler with 161 stops, behind only Joe Bonk’s 176 in 2005 and Nate Zuk’s 162 in 2007.

Thompson, who came into the game with already huge numbers of 1,845 (154 yards per game) on 112-199 (56 percent) for an average of 16.47 per catch and 21 touchdowns, would have an amazing performance. Thompson accounted for 232 of his team’s 296 passing yards. He went an uncanny 13-for-15, including successive touchdown passes of 28, 71 and 10 yards and a pair of two-point conversion tosses.

MLWR senior QB Ian Coil came in with 54 completions on 137 attempts (39 percent) for an average of 50.66 yards per game. Coil ended his career with one of his better games as he went 10-for-22 (45 percent) for 73 yards, no interceptions and only one sack. Senior wide receiver Thomas Gulso had MLWR’s longest and best catch of the game. Gulso went high up against tight middle double coverage in the fourth quarter, raked the ball in one-handed and hung tough on the hits for a 17-yard reception and the Rebels’ last first down of the game.

Thompson started the second stanza by rolling left and threw across the grain for 20 yards. A right swing pass gained nine. On second-and-one, Thompson finished off an 80-yard, seven-play drive by dropping in a perfect lead pass to senior flier Tyl Woelber for a 28-yard TD. The Rebels blocked the kick to keep it 6-6 at 10:56.

MLWR got it moving well with a good first-down run by senior Colton Little who came in averaging 7.82 yards per carry. Little finished with 78 yards on 17 carries (4.59 per carry). Oswald got a first down, but the Rebels’ only hold of the game was very costly as it negated a very long run by Little. A rare middle screen pass by MLWR went awry and Coil’s longest of three punts was a 40-yarder for a touchback.

Thompson had a long tuck-and-run first down. Avery Kosloski, a senior cornerback, made an excellent stop for no gain on a swing pass. Pipestone Area pulled a rabbit out of the black top hat with the old flea-flicker play. Thompson lateraled out to Woelber near the left sideline. Woelber, a lefty, found senior 201-pound running back Garrett Ploeger sneaking out and heading down the right side. The 64-yard unpleasant surprise made it 12-6 as the kick was way low at 6:57.

MLWR fired back with three first downs, including a fourth-and-foot conversion by Juhl. Oswald lost yards and a tuck-and-run by Coil was short as the Rebels turned it over on downs at the 29-yard line.

A one-play, 71-yard bomb down the left side burned a defensive back as Woelber got two steps and caught it on stride. A quick inside slant to Braeden Rieck found the Arrows flying to a 20-6 lead at 2:02.

The Rebels completed a couple of short passes and got one first down, but had a false start and ended up getting clocked. The game was still within reach as a two-score contest.

The game’s last score came on the tails of MLWR’s only fumble that occurred on the first carry of its second possession of the third quarter with Woelber recovering on the 10-yard line. Little, who had previously had a good tackle-for-loss, made Rieck pay the price as he flipped the 155-pounder way up high before the left pylon to prevent a TD. Thompson scored on a QB sneak and Woelber tip-toed the left corner on a perfect two-point toss for the final tally of 28-6 at 5:52.

The 2017 Rebels can be very proud to have come back from a 2-5 record to fight back to a winning record of 7-6. It had all started as MLWR avenged a regular-season loss from 2016 to Aitkin. MLWR next avenged a 2017 regular-season loss to Crosby-Ironton with an opening round Section 7AA playoff victory.

The 2017 Rebels kept rolling. MLWR showed great fortitude to work together to overcome adversity and to accomplish four of five goals. They had fun. They became a family. Each player found and filled a role on the team. They won a section championship. The 2017 Rebels became the fourth elite semifinal team to continue the legacy of winning. They joined the semifinal teams from 2000, 2006 and 2008.

 

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