Rebels keep it close

If the Zuk families of Moose Lake and Willow River ever try to build a genealogy tree, they better be sure to make several branches. Sturdy branches, at that.

If the Zuk families of Moose Lake and Willow River ever try to build a genealogy tree, they better be sure to make several branches. Sturdy branches, at that.

At least 10 Zuks have played football in Dave Louzek's eight years as head coach, including two current family members -- Tyler and Nate. All have made an impact over the years and all should be in attendance today to watch the last two members of this generation play at the Metrodome.

Moose Lake-Willow River (11-1) faces Luverne (9-3) at approximately 5:45 p.m. today in a Class AA semifinal of the Minnesota high school state football tournament. The winner advances to the Prep Bowl next Friday against Triton, which beat Hawley 41-0 Thursday night.

"Everybody should be there,'' Nate Zuk, a sophomore wingback/linebacker from Willow River, said of his siblings and cousins who previously played for the Rebels.

Toss in parents and extended family members, and the Zuks will constitute a fairly large cheering section just on their own for the Rebels' first game at the Dome since 2000.


Tyler and Nate are second cousins and each has had brothers play integral parts on winning teams. Tyler, a senior offensive and defensive tackle who lives about a mile outside Kettle Lake and attends Moose Lake, follows brothers Aaron and Logan, and twin brothers Zeb and Zack on the team. Zeb, Zack and Logan were on the Rebels' roster in 2000. Nate's older brothers, Tim and Jon, also played. Two other cousins, Ben and Ryan, are from different Zuk families.

"They've played a huge role in the years that I've been here,'' Louzek said. "Every one of them has been a starter. They've ranged from big, burly linemen to athletic backs."

Tyler, at 6-foot, 220 pounds, is somewhere in between. He's helped open holes for a running game that has produced more than 3,300 yards and held opponents to just 1,520 yards. The Rebels held Eden Valley-Watkins' Jerrod Nohner, a 1,500-yard rusher, to just 68 in last week's 16-6 quarterfinal win.

"He reminds me of the first two Zuks to come through -- Zeb and Zack,'' Louzek said. "On offense and defense, they were hard to block. Tyler fits into that mold."

Don't expect much of a change in today's game. Both teams prefer the running game.

"We expect a physical game," Louzek said. "It should come down to our offensive and defensive lines, because we're both going to pound the ball."

At 6-2, 180, Nate resides on the athletic side of the Zuk family tree. He's primarily used on reverses and pass plays and does the team's place-kicking, but showed he has an arm, too, when he threw a halfback option pass to Joe Bonk for the winning touchdown against Eden Valley-Watkins.

That undoubtedly pleased the Zuk throng, which attends nearly every game. As the last of the line, Nate said he feels the need to play up to their standards.


"The Zuks have always been good, so there's that pressure to do a good job,'' he said.

The clan usually digs out a football to toss around at family gatherings. It isn't hard to round up enough for two full teams at such events.

"There's a lot of Zuks there," Nate said. "Football plays a really big role in our family."

But perhaps none bigger than today. The Zuks even may have a say in the outcome, which would make one cheering section very happy.

"It'd kind of be nice to go out with a bang," Tyler said.

RICK WEEGMAN covers prep football for the News Tribune. He can be reached at (218) 723-5302, (800) 456-8181 or e-mailed at

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