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

By Al Rose 


Moose Lake-Willow River to play November 23 at the Metrodome


Tim Franklin

Moose Lake-Willow River senior running back Mike Gassert reaches out and hits pay dirt for the Rebels. The touchdown gave the Rebels the cushion to win 27-20 over Jackson County in the Class AA semifinals at the Metrodome on Thursday afternoon. They will play Caledonia at 1 p.m. on Friday for the state championship.

The Moose Lake-Willow River Rebels have worked all year to get stronger, faster and more physical with a "one dream, one team" mind-set. It has not been in the conventional gridiron cliche of "one game at a time." Rather, the Rebels, ranked second all year long, have been setting their sights in for a shot at number-one Caledonia, a team that has twice previously kept ML-WR from a State Class AA championship.

Thursday afternoon, November 15, the Rebels accomplished the step needed to get to the title tilt by running and gunning down the Jackson County Central Huskies with an exciting 27-20 victory at the Metrodome.

Save for two errant handles of punt snaps totaling minus 43 yards, the Rebels ran for exactly 300 yards. ML-WR lost only five other yards to have a net yardage running game of 252 yards. The Huskies gained 237 with a loss of five yards for a net yardage game of 232 yards. The total offensive yards showed ML-WR with 341 and Jackson County Central with 277 yards of total net offense.

Furthermore, the Rebels' pass rush led by Ezra Szczyrbak and Isaac Coil and others put a good rush on Tanner Menke and contained the 195-pound senior. Rebel backfield men Ben Moonen, Michael Pender and B.J. Young kept the Huskies much-vaunted passing game well in check. The linemen and linebackers did their best to try to limit or least contain Darick Vancura.

Jackson County Central was able to find its way to a mere 45 yards passing with Menke going just 6-for-17 on his throws. Rebel Tony Adamczak had another good outing, going 6-for-8 for 89 yards, including five to Jake Disterhaupt for 68 yards with one going for 10 yards and another for 29 yards. Coil was the recipient of one Adamczak throw for a 21-yard first down.

The Rebels had 21 first downs with 14 on the rush and five via the pass and by penalties on the Huskies. Jackson County Central had 13 first downs with 10 by rushing, two by passing and only one by a penalty on ML-WR. The Rebels ran a total of 76 offensive plays, while the Huskies ran 51 plays. Split between rushing and passing, the total 68-34 for ML-WR and 17-8 for Jackson County Central.

Time of possession was a big factor in the Rebels' success. ML-WR had a total time of possession of 28:55 to 19:05. The Rebels' largest differences by quarters came in the first, third and, particularly and most importantly, in the final frame with times of possession at 7:54 to 4:06, 6:32 to 5:28 and a large 9:44 to 2:16. The only quarter that Jackson County Central held an advantage in time of possession was the second quarter at 7:15 and 4:45, but it was ML-WR that scored twice in that quarter. Plus, ML-WR converted on a total of nine out of six third down situations and one out of six fourth downs. The Huskies only converted on one of nine third situations and one out of five fourth down situations.

Moose Lake-Willow River scored on three-for-four inside the red-zone while Jackson County Central scored on two-for-three inside the red-zone. Neither team attempted a field goal, although at one time it appeared the Rebels might give it go. Neither team had a quarterback sack. Ben Moonen went three-for-four on PATs with one getting blocked by Vancura. The Huskies' Taylor Christopher went two-for-three with one blocked and attributed to a Moose Lake-Willow River team effort.

Pender carried the ball 24 times for 88 yards, with only one yard lost and two touchdowns with the longest run covering 10 yards for an average of 3.6 per carry. Disterhaupt carried 20 times and went over the century mark at 109 with just four yards lost for a net of 105 yards, including one TD run of 28 yards. Disterhaupt averaged 5.2 per carry. Young and Michael Gassert filled in the offensive very well. Young carried 10 times for 61 yards with no losses with his longest carry covering 15 yards. Gassert also carried 10 times. Gassert gained 42 yards, averaged 4.2 per touch and had a two-yard TD run.

Vancura was the Huskies' workhorse. The 185-pound senior pounded the ball 23 times for 182 yards with no losses. He had two touchdowns with his longest covering 30 yards and he averaged 7.9 yards per carry. Menke ran eight times for just 49 yards and once lost five yards for 44 yards net with his longest run for 22 and a 5.5 average per carry.

The rest of the Huskies' running corps ran just a total of six times with two carries each for only a combined six yards. Big 245-pound senior Spencer Johnson did get the call once inside the red-zone and scored the Huskies' other TD from two yards out. It was the first TD of the game and came after a mishandled punt. The ensuing first quarter drive covered just 31 yards and took only four plays for a shocker that took just 1:37 off the clock. Christopher hit the kick for 7-0 at 7:35.

The Rebels would need only 2:55 to answer. It was Pender from 10 yards out and Moonen on the kick on a drive that had covered 65 yards in only nine plays to knot it up 7-7 at 4:40 on the clock.

Moose Lake-Willow River took the lead in the second quarter as they went 80 yards in only eight plays, taking a short 2:07 to answer again. Pender went over from two yards out. Although Moonen’s kick was blocked by Vancura, the Rebels were up 13-7 at 10:44. But Jackson County Central was able to tie it again. They used 10 plays covering 82 yards and using 4:25 of the clock. Vancura went in from five yards out. The Rebels got credit for a team blocked PAT and it was tied again at 6:13.

The Rebels were to earn a lead to take to the locker room. The drive was another quick one. It took only three plays and 30 yards and 49 seconds as Disterhaupt got free for a 28-yard dash. Moonen nailed the kick and at 5:17. The Rebels held the 20-12 lead until halftime.

There was no scoring in the third quarter, but the teams would exchange touchdowns and extra point kicks in the fourth quarter. A Rebels drive covered 66 yards in 11 plays and used up 4:19 of the clock. ML-WR switched things up and used Young and Gassert to get the majority of the yardage. It was Gassert from four yards out to dive through a hole and score. With Moonen getting the kick straight up and through, the Rebels were riding a 27-13 lead at 7:37 left to play.

Vancura and the Huskies were not done and they did it quickly as they went 59 yards in only a half dozen plays, culminated by Vancura’s 30-yard sprint to pay dirt and Christopher’s kick for 27-20 at 5:58.

The Rebels, starting from their own 12 as a result of a personal foul, were able to gather themselves and go on a time-consuming drive. First downs came on a run by Young for 15 yards, a pass by Adamczak for 14 yards to Disterhaupt and a rush by Disterhaupt for 15 yards to Jackson County Central’s 30. The Huskies used all of their timeouts, and would get one last possession. However, the Rebels' drive had covered 65 yards on 11 plays, and most importantly had chewed up 4:15 of time to leave the Huskies only 1:36 to try to drive 77 yards.

Menke tried a rush and was stropped by Coil after six yards. Menke attempted a pass to Kyle Luhmann, but it was incomplete. A pass to Vancura was incomplete with Jake Christopherson on the play. A rush by Vancura went only a yard as captain Christopherson polished it off with a crunch.

With 33 seconds to tick after, it was the victory formation and two knees by quarterback Adamczak. After two runner-up finishes in the last three years, the Rebels had earned their way back to get their shot at the Caledonia Warriors. That title tilt will be on Friday, November 23 at the Metrodome on November 23 with the winner being named Class AA State Champions.

Tim Franklin

Fans cheer on the Rebels at the Dome.

Moose Lake-Willow River and Jackson County Central tacklers had each got a workout in the rather warm Metrodome. Cornerback Young and safety Moonen led the way for ML-WR with seven stops apiece. Captain Christopherson had five tackles. End Szczyrbak had four tackles. Szczyrbak had a tackle for a loss. Coil, Disterhaupt and Pender each had a trio of tackles. Brett Hawkins, Zach Paull and Gassert each helped out with a pair of stops. Gassert had one tackle for a loss and one fumble recovery. With one tackle each were Aaron Shelton, Dylan Lovegreen, Josh Petterson, Jon Evenson and Brennen Newham.

Jackson County Central was led by big linebacker Spencer Johnson with eight tackles. Paden Moore, Christoper and Luhmann each had seven stops. Luhmann had two tackles for a total of three yard losses. Moore had one tackle for a one yard loss. Matt Schmit had six tackles and Menke and Vancura had five and four, respectively. Nolan Hohenstein had five tackles with one for a one-yard loss.


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