Family (football) feud: Lilya brothers on opposite sides in Barnum, MLWR semifinal

Barnum's rally from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun Mesabi East in a first-round Section 7AA football game Tuesday ensured a barrage of brotherly bickering at the Lilya household.

Barnum's rally from a 14-point fourth-quarter deficit to stun Mesabi East in a first-round Section 7AA football game Tuesday ensured a barrage of brotherly bickering at the Lilya household.

Earlier in the night, Moose Lake-Willow River had defeated Crosby-Ironton. That meant Michael Lilya's Bombers and Danny Lilya's Rebels were headed for a semifinal showdown.

Little Brown Jug rivals MLWR and Barnum meet at 4 p.m. today in Esko.

"The smack talk started as soon as they both won their game," said the brothers' mom, Sheryl Lilya.

It didn't stop.


If Michael and Danny were near each other, the topic was today's contest, with some good-natured back-and-forth between loving brothers.

Yeah, not quite.

"I wouldn't call it 'good-natured,'" said Michael, a senior offensive lineman. "It's been pretty hostile."

Danny, born a paraplegic, is a junior and the Rebels' holder. That is, when he isn't trying to get under his older sibling's skin. Danny was at the family's Moose Lake home after school Tuesday with a few teammates when Michael popped in to eat. He was outnumbered by Rebels. The heckling started immediately.

So Michael had a little extra swagger that night after the Bombers staved off elimination via an overtime victory. He was waiting when Danny walked in the door. One can only imagine the size of the smirk splashed across Michael's face.

"Danny went right into his bedroom," their dad, Dan, said. "He didn't want to talk about it."

Michael went to school in Moose Lake before transferring to Barnum as a freshman. At 6-foot and 185 pounds, he's not your prototypical lineman, but his quickness is an asset in the trenches. His Bombers have enjoyed a bounce-back season, going from 1-8 a year ago to 7-2 and the second seed in 7AA.

MLWR, meanwhile, is back in the semis after a one-year hiatus. The Rebels have won two straight following a four-game skid and are trying to get back to the final. Their streak of 10 straight section crowns ended in last fall's playoff opener against Rush City.


The first postseason tussle between these programs was supposed to start at 1 p.m. in Barnum. But expected poor field conditions prompted a venue and time change, giving the brothers more time to go at it this morning.

"We'll have to listen to these two even longer," Sheryl quipped.

Danny seemed ready for a truce, however short-lived it might be.

"I don't think I'll talk to (Michael) in the morning," he said. "We'll probably have to wait until after the game."

Mom and dad, as you might expect, don't care who wins. Sheryl is a Moose Lake alumnus, but as of Friday afternoon, she didn't know who she'd be cheering for. On one hand, she has alma mater allegiances to consider, but on the other, there's the reality that this could be Michael's final football game.

Rock and a hard place, as they say.

Dan merely wants to see a well-played game, with his sons soaking up the surroundings. Somebody is going to come home upset. But, he pointed out, both boys are hockey players - Michael for Moose Lake Area and Danny for the Minnesota Wild sled team - and that season is right around the corner.

"I don't know how many families get to see son vs. son in a playoff football game," Dan said.


To the victor go the bragging rights. To the loser ... well, probably more ruthless "chirping" as Dan called it.

Michael is pretty sure he knows precisely how things will shake out.

"Barnum's going to win," he said when asked for a prediction.

His younger brother was more diplomatic.

"I guess we'll have to wait and see," Danny said.

Weather, whoa

It's not quite the Halloween blizzard of 1991 that sent prep football teams packing for the Metrodome, which hosted myriad section playoff games that year as fields across the state were buried. But the snowfall that blanketed much of the region Thursday and Friday has thrown a monkey wrench into today's schedule.

Esko, slated to welcome Greenway/Nashwauk-Keewatin at 1 p.m. in Section 7AAA, now will host a quadruple header of semifinals. Wrenshall and Floodwood in Section 5 Nine-Man kick the day off at 10 a.m., with the Eskomos and Titans to follow. Then it's Barnum-MLWR at 4 p.m. and Section 7AAAA rivals Cloquet and Hermantown in the 7 o'clock nightcap.


All other area football games will go on as previously planned.

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