Rebels bypass Bombers, head to state
November 10, 2023
All season long, the Moose Lake/Willow River defense has played like a unit possessed by protecting the endzone. The Rebels entered the playoffs allowing an average of a little over 8 points per game defensively with most opponents scoring late in games when the Rebels' second or third units were on the field. The Rebels defense played a starring role in the 13-0 win over Barnum Thursday, Nov. 2, in the Section 7AA championship game at Esko.
"All season long the defense played so well, this is one of the best units I have coached," ML/WR head coach Dave Louzek said. "They are very quick and pursue as an entire unit."
On Saturday, the defense pressured Bombers quarterback Hayden Charboneau and didn't let him have the time he normally does to throw the football.
"We knew we had to ... make [Charboneau] uncomfortable and not let him have time to get set and throw the ball," Louzek said. "He's a great quarterback and we knew we had to stop him."
Barnum ended its storybook season with a 10-1 overall record. The Bombers were undefeated in the regular season, which included a season-opening win over the Rebels in double overtime. They returned the brown jug they won in that game Thursday night.
"We had some opportunities, but give the Rebels the credit: they stopped us when we had those chances," Barnum head coach Bob Minkkinen related. "We had such a great season, it doesn't seem real that it has ended."
ML/WR had the only touchdown of the first half when Micah Thompson scored on a 39-yard touchdown run on a fourth down play. The score remained 7-0 until early in the fourth quarter when Thompson scored on a short touchdown run.
The Rebels were shorthanded in the win: Kaden Robbins was out with an injury and Jaxson Schmidt was limited to only a few plays on the night.
"We had two important players out that game and I give credit to the ones who stepped up and filled their roles," Louzek said. "That's our philosophy - if someone is hurt or injured, the next player steps up."
ML/WR advanced to a state quarterfinal game Thursday in Forest Lake against Eden Valley-Watkins.
It was the third time the two schools have meet in the state quarterfinals. The Rebels defeated the Eagles back in 2006 and Eden Valley-Watkins topped the Rebels in 2010 when they met in St. Cloud.
"They are a team with a good defense. They have two offensive sets they use: one, a spread offense, and the other is a power wishbone. They try to pound the ball down the field, so we will have to be ready for either scenario," Louzek said, "It should be a good matchup with a team we are familiar with. We have been in a position to play in many state tournament games over the years and have also developed rivalries at the state level, not just the local ones."