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Rebels bull their way to state tournament

The Moose Lake/Willow River football team isn't taking anything for granted, especially the Section 7AA championship last week. On Thursday, they defeated Mesabi East 63-0, after beating the Giants 64-0 in early October.

"It was good to see the team not looking past this team to bigger games down the road," said Rebels head coach Dave Louzek. "We will watch game film with the players and correct any mistakes and work as we enter the state tournament."

The Rebels advanced to a state quarterfinal game against West Central Area/Ashby Thursday in Brainerd, after this issue of the Pine Knot News went to press. (Look for an update at pineknotnews.com.)

The Rebels wasted little time in establishing their dominance over the Giants. On the second offensive play by Mesabi East, the Rebels caused and recovered a Giants fumble. With the Rebels now on offense, Logan Orvedahl raced in for a 16-yard touchdown scamper. After the Sam Knezevich extra point kick, Moose Lake/Willow River was up 7-0 just 1:43 into the game.

"Playing well right from the start shows how ready our kids were to play," Louzek said. "Causing the fumble and scoring quickly put no doubt into which team was going to control this game."

Orvedahl ran for four touchdowns and a total of 173 rushing yards on just 12 carries Thursday at Esko Stadium.

"Logan Orvedahl has been outstanding all season long," Louzek said. "He is a leader on the field, during practice, and in the locker room. This team works very hard for each other and the players are achieving great success together. They know they all must do their jobs in practice during the week and at games for great individual efforts to occur."

Just three plays later, the Rebels defense forced the Giants to punt. Four plays later, Orvedahl scored on a 60-yard touchdown gallop on fourth down. Knezevich added the extra point and it was 14-0 with just 5:12 gone.

On Mesabi East's third series, the Rebels' Kaden Robbins stepped in on a pass attempt to get the turnover. Jackson Thompson raced in for a 29-yard touchdown jaunt on the next play, making it 20-0 with 7:12 gone. The Rebels extra point kick was blocked, one of the very few highlights for the Giants.

Before the first quarter ended, the Rebels would add yet another score when Adam Neumann tossed a 26-yard pass to Landin Kurhajetz for a touchdown and Knezevich's extra point boot pushed the lead to 27-0.

The Rebels offense continued making big plays making on offense in the second quarter, including a 54-yard touchdown scamper by Orvedahl, a 44-yard touchdown dash from Thompson and another Orvedahl touchdown run, this time from 29 yards out. The Rebels led 48-0 at halftime after three more extra-point kicks by Knezevich.

"This team, like all Rebel teams, was very focused for the section championship game," Louzek said. "Our regular season preparation is always geared towards playoff success and the players understand that. Having beaten Mesabi East earlier in the season did not present a problem for getting our kids to work hard and be ready for this game as they are working to become better every game with the hopes of competing for a state championship."

At halftime, the head coaches agreed that the game should go into running time. That usually occurs if a team has a 35-point lead in the fourth quarter, but it's up to the coaches.

Even with the game in running time, the Rebels managed a safety and a Duane Broughton 36-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, pushing their lead to 57-0 with the extra-point kick by Knezevich.

Perhaps overlooked by many opponents is the strength of the Rebels defense. The Rebels gave up just 77 total yards to the Giants and held them to negative three rushing yards on offense.

"Our defense has been outstanding all season long," Louzek said. "During the regular season, they held opponents scoreless for 19 consecutive quarters. As a unit, they are physical and very fast to the football which makes it difficult for offenses to consistently have sustained drives against us."

The lone Rebel score in the fourth quarter came on a fantastic 95-yard touchdown dash by Jaxyn Schmidt.

A huge key to the juggernaut Rebels has been the impressive line play they bring. "The offensive and defensive lines are the anchor of our team," Louzek said. "Our success starts with them. They are fast, physical, and very-well conditioned to wear down opponents over four quarters."

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