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

By Al Rose
Moose Lake Star-Gazette 

Rebels win again


November 16, 2017

Dan Lingle

Rebel Colton Little (No. 2) had a career-high 289 yards to go over 1,000 yards on the season. The senior running back had four touchdowns on successive TD runs of 53, 81, 43 and two yards. At the top of the page, the team's buses are escorted through Moose Lake by emergency personnel in a celebratory send-off November 10.

The Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels are off to their best start since the team that was the State Class AA runner-up with a heartbreaking loss in the last seconds to perennial powerhouse Caledonia in 2013. But this is 2017 and it was no contest literally right from the start as MLWR knocked off the West Central Area/Ashby Knights by reversing the score at 41-14.

It was anticipated by many to be an exciting and stark contrast of styles. The Rebels used their fast-paced pounding running game and furious defense to easily surpass the Knights’ highly-touted passing game in a Class AA quarterfinal that became a mismatch on a 16-degree night in Brainerd on Friday, November 10.

The positive energy and joy exuded from head coach Dave Louzek, in his 19th season, with a record of 176-43 (.803 winning percentage), as the upstart and rolling Rebels, now with five wins in a row, again played solid football on both sides of the ball to advance with a record of 7-5. MLWR will play 11-1 Pipestone Area at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis on Friday, November 17, at 11:30 a.m. West Central/Ashy’s improbable run from a 4-4 record ended at 7-5.

MLWR again made the most of its possessions as it had 13 first downs as compared to 16 for the Knights. West Central Area/Ashby kept its penalty count to only two for just 10 yards. MLWR’s penalty count climbed a bit to seven for 50 yards, but with only one for holding and just one personal foul. The Rebels did lose two fumbles on the bone-chilling night, but the Knights did not capitalize on either miscue. West Central Area/Ashby suffered three interceptions and one fumble and they were very costly as MLWR turned three of those mistakes into scores. Each team had only one three-and-out. MLWR punted only twice with Ian Coil averaging 38 yards. The Knights’ punter averaged 31 yards on his three boots. The Rebels stayed quite hot on the fourth-down conversions as they went 3-for-4, but MLWR turned only one of its conversions into a score. The Knights had no successful conversions plus the Rebels turned West Central Area/Ashby’s one failed conversion into a score.

The Rebels' top two ground-gainers, Colton Little and Trent Juhl, combined for exactly 400 yards. The pair had five of MLWR’s six touchdowns.

Little ran for a career-high 289 yards on 24 carries (12 yards per carry). Little, with 211 yards and three successive touchdowns runs of 53, 81 and 43 yards in the first half, had already racked up 211 yards by the break. Little capped off his huge night with 78 more yards, including a two-yard TD in the fourth quarter. The senior speedster surpassed the 1,000-yard mark with 1,068 yards to join the elite company of eight previous MLWR 1,000-yard rushers.

Little came into the game with 779 yards on 112 yards (6.96 yards per carry). Little, who rocketed forward from eight touchdowns to 12 touchdowns, graciously and humbly attributed the team’s running success to the offensive linemen.

The Rebels’ mad-dog defense set their tone from the get-go as Logan Peterson’s first tackle-for-loss forced the Knights only three-and-out. On the very first offensive play from scrimmage, Little popped through the far left side and easily out-sprinted two pursuers to the left pylon for a stunning 53-yard TD. Anakin Oswald added the two-point run for 8-0 at 10:39.

Juhl, with four 100-plus yard games in his last five appearances, got right back on track with 111 yards. Juhl had one of the Rebels’ three fourth-down conversions. Juhl had the third quarter’s only score. Juhl also had a two-point conversion run after Little’s third TD.

Juhl came into the game with 753 yards on 112 carries (6.72 per carry). Juhl’s TD took him to seven touchdowns. Juhl’s TD was set up by a 15-yard QB sack by Dakota Fredrick. Juhl’s eight-yard scamper to the right came as the Knights were way too late in identifying a counter. The perfectly executed play capped off an eight-play, 46-yard drive. Place-kick holder Danny Lilya and kicker Carter Johnson made it 35-0 with 1:41 left in the third quarter.

Oswald, who came into the game with 425 yards on 117 carries (3.6 yards per carry) and seven touchdowns, had been on the roll with a pair of three-TD games in a row. Although Oswald was contained to about 20 yards rushing, he was not kept off the scoreboard.

Oswald, often the go-to bruiser on short yardage situations, fulfilled that role again as he had his team’s two other fourth-down conversions. Oswald was frequently the first player down field on punts all year. Coil drilled a low and diving 44-yarder that was misplayed by the Knights’ receiver and Oswald pounced on the cold pigskin. Oswald picked up a fourth-and-inches and was rewarded for that second conversion. Oswald answered the bell and bulled in behind big blocks on a two-yard run for his eighth TD. Little was denied on the two-point run for 14-0 with eight ticks left in the first frame.

Coil, adding an extra wrinkle to keep the opponents’ defenses more honest this year, came in at 54-135 (40 percent) and 608 yards. Coil was averaging 55.4 passing yards per game and he had four TD passes and about a half dozen two-point passes. Coil’s receivers were averaging 11.3 yards per catch. Coil’s long arm was not needed and his only two short passes were not caught as the Rebels had their only three-and-out, already up 28-0 in the second quarter.

The passing Knights’ senior QB, Ross Anderson, came in averaging about 22 passes per night with 1,813 yards on the season on 136 out of 236 attempts (58 percent). Anderson was averaging 165 yards per game with 15 yards per catch by his receivers. Anderson came in with 23 TD passes for just over two scoring passes per game.

Illustrating the Knights' lack of a running attack, their lead rusher, Brady Sabolik, had a season total of only 519 yards on 111 carries (4.7 yards per carry) with just three touchdowns.

The Rebels’ pass rush and defensive backfield combined to make it a long, but not dreadful night for the Knights’ QB. Although Anderson managed to exceed his average of 165 yards per game with 219 yards, he went only 11-for-30 (37 percent) and threw for only one TD. Admittedly, Anderson was saddled with four flat out drops and a couple of no-catches by his receivers. The real burrs under Anderson’s blanket were the Rebels’ very adept defensive backfield and MLWR’s relentless pass rushers.

Thomas Gulso, a senior safety, had his second game in a row leading the D-backs. Gulso had two interceptions with his first pick leading to a score in the second quarter. Gulso’s second pick, near the end of the second stanza, was not converted. Gulso also had a dead-ball two-point pick carom into his hands at the very beginning of the fourth quarter as the Knights escaped the first of two running-time embarrassments.

Aidan Szczyrbak had a QB sack, a QB-hurry and a fumble recovery that led to a two-play, 44-yard score as Little got his 43-yard TD. Juhl converted the two-point with a counter for 28-0 at 2:25 of the second stanza.

Dilon Louzek dropped back in pass defense from his inside linebacker spot and got his first career pass interception in the fourth quarter, but the Rebels did not cash in as they had their only failed fourth-down conversion. The senior co-captain also had an assisted tackle-for-loss with Fredrick and an assisted tackle-for-loss with senior lineman Jack Belden. Adam Dragicevich had an assisted sack with Ryan Barrett and a tackle-for-loss. A solo sack by Dragicevich, with a subsequent wind-wobbled pass interception by Little, was negated on a late and likely mercy flag for roughing the passer.

The Knights were able to drive 65 yards with three first downs, including an unlikely 41-yard bomb by Anderson that dropped in a bucket against double coverage to Dawson Staples. Sabolik scored on a four-yard run for 35-6 with 14:58 left in the game. Sabolik closed his senior season with only about 50 yards as he had been held to 27 yards in the first half.

Jennifer Szczyrbak

Fans brave the cold and snow to cheer on the Moose Lake/Willow River Rebels in Brainerd Friday, November 10.

The Rebels put it back into running time with an eight-play, 52-yard drive. Little showed off his balance and dancing skills with a shake-a-leg, take-a-leg to double dodge a would-be tackler to skitter inside the left pylon. The two-yard shifty score was Little’s fourth TD. It stayed 41-6 at 7:48 as the kick was low and left.

Jordan Fjosne had to made a very good TD-saving tackle on a long run. Anderson found the Knights’ leading receiver, Kaden Spindler, who came into the game with 785 yards and 10 touchdowns on 66 catches, open down the middle. Spindler ran right and cut back left against the reserves to complete a four-play, 27-yard drive. Spindler went right and Anderson flipped a Brett Favre-like shuttle pass ahead for the two-point conversion to close out the scoring at 41-14 at 1:02.

Reserve sophomore QB Tema Glushkov got the fun of heading along with Bo Moffett to football family father Coach Louzek in front of the grandstand.


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