When the Moose Lake-Willow River football team was in the middle of their four-game losing streak, I don't think many people had the Rebels anywhere near the state 2A semi-finals. The Rebels figured something out after that fourth game and…
When the Moose Lake-Willow River football team was in the middle of their four-game losing streak, I don't think many people had the Rebels anywhere near the state 2A semi-finals. The Rebels figured something out after that fourth game and turned their season around. The season would end one game short of where they hoped, but especially defensively the Rebels performed well against the Pipestone Area Arrows.
The Arrows won the game 28-6 and scored 28 straight points to advance to the Prep Bowl.
Early in the game, the Moose Lake-Willow River offense looked like they were going to run up and down the field on the Arrows' defense. Trent Juhl ran behind a trap block for a first down. Juhl was a patient runner. He waited for his linemen to pick up their defenders and accelerated behind the blocks and moved the chains. Much of his success came running behind a block by Aidan Szczyrbak. Szczyrbak combined with fellow offensive lineman Ethan Tomczak to get the Rebels' running game going.
Szczyrbak was one of the more impressive players on both sides of the ball for Moose Lake-Willow River. He was a solidifying presence on the offensive line and is an athletic lineman who easily came across the formation on trap plays.
Eli Werner made a nice block on the outside, but he was one of the Rebels main ball carriers. He has quick feet that enable him to bounce a run either to the outside or when need be just one man over to find a gap n the defense. Like Juhl, he found much of his success behind Szczyrbak and Tomczak. Moose Lake-Willow River uses misdirection to run their ground game, and Werner took advantage of it on an inside handoff to move the chains.
Anakin Oswald didn't carry the ball as often, but he showed some power running in the middle behind Logan Peterson, Tomczak and Dilon Louzek.
Louzek showed his athletic ability by getting to the outside and throwing a block in space.
Tomczak and Peterson blew open a big hole for Juhl to account for the Rebels only touchdown.
Adam Dragicevich and Bo Moffett also teamed up to open a hole on the outside.
Late in the game – with the Rebels needing to throw – they caught a break with a great catch by Thomas Gulso. They faced a fourth and long and the quarterback threw up a wild pass into the middle of the field. The ball was tipped, and Gulso took a big hit but made the catch for a first down.
Although giving up 28 points looks like the defense played poorly – for the most part, they did not. They gave up two long passes for two of Pipestone Area's four touchdowns. They were forced to defend a short field due to a turnover on a third touchdown and lost the field position game during most of the second half as the offense needed to get out of character in an attempt to catch up.
Early in the game, as a defensive tackle, Szczyrbak was in the backfield immediately to force the back to the outside for no gain. He generated a pass rush to pressure the quarterback to move in the pocket. Later he stuffed a running back for a loss.
Next to Szczyrbak on the defensive line was Dragicevich. He also got pressure on the quarterback from defensive tackle spot early in the game. The Arrows didn't have much luck running the ball and a big reason why was the two defensive tackles. Later in the game, Dragicevich stuffed a runner for a short gain and also put pressure on the quarterback resulting in a sack.
Ryan Barrett put pressure on the quarterback during the game from his defensive end spot and recorded a sack.
Able to take advantage of the interior line play were the linebackers. Peterson made a tackle for a short gain.
Louzek made a number plays from his linebacker spot. Most notably his blitz that forced the quarterback into Dragicevich and then Louzek stuffed a running play between the tackles.
In the end, the Arrows offense was too explosive and the defense too consistent for the Rebels to get back into the game after falling behind. It was the end of a remarkable turnaround for Moose Lake-Willow River. The loss in the semi-finals ended a five-game winning streak after the Rebels started the season at 2-5.