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

By Al Rose
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Rebels edged by Tigers in 7AA shoot-out


The fourth-seeded Rebels hosted, but were edged 42-40 by the fifth-seeded Rush City Tigers in a Section 7AA opening round shoot-out in Willow River on Tuesday, October 25. Rush City advanced with a 7-2 record. MLWR’s season ended at 4-5. The loss ended the Rebels' 10-year tenure as section champs and marked the first time since 2002 that MLWR lost in the first round.

It was an epic battle between the respective teams' big backs and speedsters. Rush City’s Mack truck of a fullback, 290-pound six-foot, five-inch junior Riley Sykes, racked up four touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversion runs. The Tigers' Ferrari of a quarterback, 170-pound senior Tyler Oscarson, had two touchdowns and he threw a two-point conversion pass to Brandon Guptill.

Senior co-captain, 210-pound power back Bryceton Butkiewicz scored a hat trick with three touchdowns and he added a pair of two-point conversions to close his gridiron career with 20 touchdowns and 132 total points. Senior co-captain, 155-pound scatback Isaac Riihiluoma ended his season with one touchdown and three two-point conversion runs to finish with 11 touchdowns and 78 total points. Senior, 220-pound strongman Joe Weidendorf had one TD.

The basic statistics portrayed how close the contest was. Each team had 18 first downs and each team had only one three-and-out. The Rebels kept the penalties down to four infractions for 35 yards, including three holds and one false start. Rush City had nine penalties for 65 yards, but with MLWR declining one hold, one illegal man down field and one illegal shift. The Rebels lost a fumble. The Tigers turned it over once on downs and had a pass picked off. John Kachinske and Aidan Szczyrbak had QB sacks for MLWR. Hunter Hermanson had a sack for Rush City.

The Tigers received and got a pair of first downs. Kachinske got a QB sack as Oscarson had to cover a fumble. The Tigers tried to go for it on third-and-14 and Kachinske and Remington Starck chased Oscarson out of bounds for a three-yard loss. MLWR took over on downs at the 34-yard line and got one first down, but a hold led to a fourth-and-nine and a punt ensued.

Rush City used 10 plays to go 80 yards with Oscarson keeping and scooting right for a seven-yard TD. Oscarson rolled right and tossed to tight end Guptill in the right corner for 8-0 at 1:10.

After the kick went out of bounds, MLWR worked from the 35-yard line and used seven plays, including four first downs, with Riihiluoma taking a pitch through the middle for a four-yard score. The Rebels used a beautifully executed misdirection play to Riihiluoma for 8-8 at 11:25.

The Tigers struck right back as they went 51 yards on five plays ending with Oscarson zooming around the left side for a 24-yard TD. Oscarson was rushed and tried to flip a pass attempt on the right side, but it failed as it was caught by an ineligible lineman for 14-8 at 9:15.

The Rebels were hampered by a hold and went three-and-out for their only time in the game. Rush City covered 64 yards in five plays with Sykes plowing the final five yards. Anakin Oswald positioned to defend a pass to six-foot, five-inch Dylan Groshens, but the Tigers were up 20-8 at 5:12.

After two first downs, the Rebels lost a fumble on their own 30-yard line. Following a quarterback sack by Szczyrbak for third-and-13, Starck jumped a quick out pass route for a nifty pick to get the ball right back for MLWR on the Tigers' 28-yard line at 1:59.

The Rebels made Rush City pay for the mistake in just five plays. Butkiewicz took a right pitch for a five-yard TD. Butkiewicz got the conversion to close the gap to 20-16 at 51 seconds.

The Tigers went three-and-out for their only time with a hold, an illegal man down field and an illegal formation led to a punt. A hold on the return moved the Rebels back to the nine-yard line. Butkiewicz ran for a first down to the 26-yard line and MLWR took a time out with nine seconds until halftime, but Riihiluoma got very little on a pitch.

Thomas Gulso backed up a booming kick and returned it to the 20-yard line. The Rebels worked for a fourth-and-one and the line got a huge push to help Butkiewicz keep the drive going. Although Ian Coil hit Oswald with a nice pass, it was fourth-and-five and MLWR punted. Weidendorf’s low liner led to a big return, but it was called back to the 30-yard line on a hold.

Rush City went 70 yards on seven plays with Sykes pounding the left middle for a two-yard TD and he followed the same path for the conversion and 28-16 at 5:15.

The Rebels drove with one first down and after Butkiewicz lost a yard, he converted a crucial fourth-and-a foot. Weidendorf got a five-yard TD in the middle to complete the nine-play, 69-yard drive. Butkiewicz’s left pitch conversion run made it 28-24, Tigers, at 2:25.

The Tigers went 76 yards on nine plays with Sykes busting free in the middle and rumbling 15 yards for his third TD. A two-point conversion run put Rush City up 36-24 at 10:30.

Riihiluoma scooped up a bobbled kick and zig-zagged all the way to the Tigers' 25-yard line. It took only six plays, ending with Butkiewicz hitting the middle right for a three-yard TD. Riihiluoma took a pitch for 36-32 at 8:06.

The Tigers roared right back again and went 58 yards on five plays, ending with Sykes chalking up his fourth TD on a one-yard scrum. Sykes was ruled short on the two-point for 42-32 at 5:50.

Nick Wegge returned a squib kick to the 45. MLWR used up just under four minutes with 11 plays, including a sharp fourth-and-five pass from Ian Coil to Ryan Barrett to keep the drive alive. A pitch and three-yard run through the right middle was Butkiewicz’s third TD. Riihiluoma’s third conversion run made it 42-40, Rush City, at 1:56.

Senior co-captain Sam Coil had a decent on-side kick and two Rebels were close, but it bounced up for Cody McFee to grab. Three runs with a first down all but sealed the deal. MLWR declined an illegal shift and accepted a personal foul on a play. The Tigers kneed out the clock.

Weidendorf ended his excellent senior season with 13 tackles and four assists. Szczyrbak had four solos with a QB sack and six assists. Senior defensive end Kachinske had five solos with a QB sack and five assists. Butkiewicz and Dilon Louzek each had five solos and three assists. Oswald had one solo and six assists. Stark had two solos, two assists and a pass interception. Sam Coil had three solos and one assist. Senior defensive back Hunter Klund had four assists. Louis Gourd, Trent Juhl, Riihiluoma and Wegge each had two solo tackles.


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