Streak snappers: Hermantown stops ML-WR's 62-game win streak
Earlier in the week, Moose Lake-Willow River football coach Dave Louzek reiterated his long-standing mantra that all streaks must come to an end.
The coach’s words proved prophetic Thursday night at Corey Veech Memorial Field in Hermantown, where the Hawks fended off the Rebels 25-24 in each team’s season opener.
Gone is MLWR’s 62-game regular-season winning streak.
Gone is the Rebels’ 38-game road winning streak.
And gone is the team’s 27-game nonconference winning streak.
And yet, Louzek wore a smile after a lengthy — and upbeat — talk with his team.
“I told them I’ve been saving this speech for 62 regular-season games because at some point our streak’s going to end,” Louzek said. “I told them there’s only two bad losses — a playoff loss is always a bad loss because that ends your season, and the other bad loss is if you don’t get better.
“If we use this as motivation, we get stronger and we get better, we have a great playoff run, then this was a good loss for us.”
Kole Zuidmulder’s fourth rushing touchdown was the game-winner. The Hermantown quarterback plunged in from a yard out with 6:51 remaining, and the Hawks’ defense made it stand — but it wasn’t easy.
The Rebels, who hadn’t lost in the regular season since a 15-0 setback to Deer River on Sept. 8, 2006, had the ball one last time on their own 10-yard line with 2:00 left. Speedy running back Josh Pettersen promptly bolted for 33 yards to get the Rebels near midfield. The drive stalled, though, when a holding penalty wiped out a 15-yard completion from Brad Fossum to Charlie Adamczak, who was tackled at Hermantown’s 38.
“I was 100 percent confident we were going to score, but unfortunately we shot ourselves in the foot with a holding penalty,” said Fossum, who passed for 147 yards.
For the second time in as many years, these teams hooked up in a nailbiter. Last season, MLWR overcame a 20-point halftime deficit to stun Hermantown 24-20 in a game delayed by lightning. The sequel was just as good.
“I didn’t expect anything less than a one-point game,” said Zuidmulder, who completed 6 of 9 passes for 145 yards, all in the first half. “It was just a matter of who got the ball last and who made the plays.”
Zuidmulder made plenty of plays. Three of his TDs were 1-yarders, with the other an 8-yard scamper at the end of the first half where the big QB made something out of nothing.
Hermantown came out flying. The Hawks’ opening drive went 72 yards on 15 plays, nine of which were Thomas Madison runs. It ended, after third-and-long and fourth-down conversions, with Zuidmulder reaching the ball over the goal line.
Big plays abounded in the second quarter, none bigger than Fossum’s 64-yard scoring strike to Pettersen that gave the Rebels a 16-13 advantage.
“They’re that kind of team,” Hermantown coach Daryl Illikainen said of MLWR’s big-play ability.
The Hawks led 19-16 at the break before sophomore Bryceton Butkiewicz scored from 3 yards out and added the conversion.
Illikainen knew his team was in for a battle. So even when Zuidmulder restored the Hawks’ lead, the coach wasn’t ready to breathe easy. When they took a knee to run out the clock, Illikainen finally could exhale.
“I’m so proud of our guys. They were talking about (winning this game) last year and that one got away from us,” he said. “Credit to (MLWR) — to have a streak like that just tells you what kind of program they have.”
Louzek was just as quick to credit the Hawks. Now, he and the Rebels can quit talking about regular-season accolades. Their focus all along has been postseason success.
“Our focus is on playoffs; it’s not on regular-season wins or any kind of winning streak,” Louzek said. “It’s on playoff success. That’s what people remember and that’s what we’ll remember.”
Moose Lake-WR 0-16-8-0—24
H — Kole Zuidmulder 1 run (Cody McShane kick)
MLWR — Milan Dragicevich 6 run (Dragicevich run)
H — Zuidmulder 1 run (pass failed)
MLWR — Josh Pettersen 64 catch from Brad Fossum (Dragicevich run)
H — Zuidmulder 8 run (pass failed)
MLWR — Bryceton Butkiewicz 3 run (Butkiewicz run)
H — Zuidmulder 1 run (pass failed)