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SECTION 7AA CHAMPIONSHIP: Rebels rumble back to State


November 8, 2019

Dan Saletel

The Moose Lake/Willow River football team is going back to the state football tournament for the 13th time in 14 years, as the Rebels knocked off Mesabi East last Thursday in the section 7AA championship game in Esko.

Blake Juhl rushed for 169 yards and two touchdowns to pace the Rebels in the 36-8 victory over the Giants. Mason Olson also threw for 156 yards and a touchdown in the ML/WR win.

Juhl started the scoring Thursday night on a 1-yard touchdown run; he also scored on the two-point conversion to give the Rebels an 8-0 lead after the first quarter. The Rebels made it 14-0 when Logan Privette scored on a 9-yard dash in the second quarter. Brady Watrin added the two-point conversion for a 16-0 lead at the break.

"We did a good job with ball control and pounded the ball on the ground in the first half against a very good defense," head coach Dave Louzek said. "We still need to clean up the penalties we had - that cost us an opportunity to build a bigger lead - but we will work on that in practice this week."

The Rebels made it 24-0 in the third quarter when Juhl scored his second touchdown of the game, this time on a 15-yard touchdown run, followed by his second two-point conversion. Logan Orvedahl extended the Rebels' lead to 30-0 early in the fourth quarter on a 5-yard touchdown run, but the Rebels failed on the two-point conversion for the first time.

The Giants cut the lead to 30-8 on a 58-yard touchdown pass off a Kody Frey halfback option pass to Cody Swanson, then the two connected again on the two-point conversion. The Rebels sealed the victory late in the fourth when Watrin caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Mason Olson. The Rebels were then crowned as Section 7AA champions once again.

"I think there were two big factors in the win," Louzek said. "We were 7 for 12 on third down, which allowed us to keep drives alive, and when we have 20 first downs in the game and your opponent only finishes with eight, it's a huge advantage for sure."

Dan Saletel

The Rebels will return to the state tournament for the 15th time in school history and the 14th time as a combined cooperative program with Moose Lake and Willow River. The Rebels have been state Class AA runners-up three times in school history: in 2009, 2011 and 2012.

ML/WR will face Paynesville in the quarterfinals Friday night in North Branch at 7 p.m. The Bulldogs will be making their third consecutive state football appearance and their fifth in school history.

Paynesville has lost the last two seasons in the state semifinals - both times against eventual state champion Caledonia.

Caledonia has twice defeated the Rebels in the state championship game, in 2011 and 2012. Caledonia has won 10 of the last 12 state Class AA championships.


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