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

By Al Rose
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Rebels battle Dragons


October 19, 2017

Jennifer Szczyrbak

MLWR Rebel Jeremiah Weidendorf (No. 48) makes a TD run in the October 13 homecoming game in Willow River against the Pine City Dragons. Also pictured are Rebels Anakin Oswald (No. 33), Aidan Szczyrbak (No. 77), Ethan Tomczak (No. 50) and Ian Coil (No. 5).

More hard times and bad luck hit Moose Lake/Willow River on Friday, October 13, as the Rebels' offense faltered again during an 18-7 homecoming loss to the Pine City Dragons in Willow River.

Two lost fumbles and two intercepted passes were the largest causes in a missed opportunity to get revenge for last year's homecoming. The result of this season's game put both teams at the bottom of the Northeast Blue District with records of 5-2.

To the Rebels' defensive credit, they kept MLWR within striking distance. Two third-quarter fumbles were not converted into points. Ryan Barrett had a tackle for big loss. A pivotal stop was made by Adam Dragicevich and Aidan Szczyrbak to turn a pass into a large loss that forced a turnover on downs. Following a second fumble, it was Dragicevich, assisted by Dakota Fredrick and Szczyrbak, converging for a QB sack to force a punt. The combined efforts of the entire defense prevented a probable third-quarter disaster.

Big 204-pound senior Jake Lunceford led Pine City on both sides of the ball. Lunceford carried 23 times for 144 yards and had a TD pass interception return for the Dragons' second score.

The Rebels' ground game was led by Eli Werner's 52 yards. Jeremiah Weidendorf ran for MLWR's only TD.

Statistically, except for the four to one ratio on turnovers, parts of the game did not look that bad on paper. Pine City had 14 first downs. MLWR had 12 first downs, but the Rebels squandered too many opportunities to sustain scoring drives.

Overall, except for the interceptions, MLWR's passing continued to be more consistently creative and encouraging. The Rebels went 11-for-20 through the air for approximately 85 yards, including six first downs. Barrrett had a 20-yard catch, a seven-yard first-down catch and an 11-yard catch. Colton Little had four catches for 21 yards and two first downs. Anakin Oswald had a one-yard catch and a critical eight-yard layout reception for a first down to sustain a scoring drive. Avery Kosloski caught one 11-yard first-down pass. Werner had one six-yard catch for a first down. Pine City completed five of seven pass attempts, but for no first downs and only three net yards.

MLWR had no three-and-outs, converted twice on fourth down and did not turn the ball over on downs. Pine City had one three-and-out, had no fourth down attempts and turned the ball over twice on downs. The Dragons played very disciplined football with only one five-yard penalty on an illegal procedure. MLWR decreased its accepted penalties for 55 yards, including only one personal foul, but a couple of the penalties were untimely in terms of causing drives to fizzle.

There was no scoring in the first quarter. Pine City's first scoring drive was impressive, using 17 plays, including six first downs, to cover 85 yards. Quentin Miklya scampered for a six-yard TD. Remington Starck and Fredrick teamed up to race in and block the extra point kick to kept it 6-0 with 9:26 left in the second quarter.

MLWR answered as it took advantage of the Dragons' only turnover. Ian Coil, who has been averaging in the mid-40s, had successive punts of 46, 45, 39 and 46 yards. Coil's towering 39-yard floater in the second quarter was muffed. Oswald flew downfield, pounced and made sure to cover the loose pigskin.

Soon it would be Oswald making his outstanding layout first-down catch to sustain the ensuing drive. The Rebels ended up needing only six plays to go 30 yards. Weidendorf earned an extra reward for coming out for football and something special to remember. Weidendorf took a left pitch, wisely waited for a block by Oswald and scooted inside the pylon for a six-yard TD. Danny Lilya held and Carter Johnson kicked it straight through to lift MLWR to a slim 7-6 edge with 2:51 remaining until halftime.

The Dragons were forced to punt, but struck back fast on MLWR's possession, taking advantage of a first-down pass attempt that went out of the intended receiver's grasp and directly into the breadbasket of Lunceford who lumbered away for a 38-yard pick-six TD. The Rebels' middle line stuffed the two-point try for 12-7 with 1:22 left before the break.

The final score did not come until very late in the fourth quarter. It came after a pass interception by Nick Hansmann as MLWR tried to launch one into double coverage on Thomas Gulso. There was nothing Gulso could do as Hansmann simply stepped in front of the pass. It took Pine City eight plays to go 53 yards and ended on a one-yard TD by Isaiah Gonyea. The two-point run was stuffed again to make it 18-7 with 49.6 seconds left to play.

The Rebels have another chance to avenge a 2016 loss and work out the wrinkles as they play the middle-of-the-pack Gobblers in Aitkin on Wednesday, October 18, at 7 p.m. The Section 7AA playoffs at the higher seeds begin on Tuesday, October 24, with times and locations to be announced.


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