At the end of Mountain Iron-Buhl’s postgame huddle Friday night, senior running back Dillon Drake led the group of players with a shout of “rebuilding year!”
That was in reference to people claiming the Rangers, who were returning just three seniors, would be in a transitional season after reaching the Minnesota Nine-Man football semifinals in 2018.
Drake and Co. had other ideas against South Ridge at Public Schools Stadium.
Drake rushed for 264 yards on 26 carries and scored four total touchdowns in just three quarters as MIB cruised to a 42-6 victory.
The Rangers (10-1) will face Hancock, a 32-20 winner over Renville County West, at 11:30 a.m. Thursday at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.
“We were looking at our roster last winter and half of them were freshmen,” said MIB coach Danny Zubich, who lost seven seniors from his final four team a year ago. “Anytime we brought that up over the winter, people would say, ‘Oh, rebuilding year.’ It’s not a rebuilding year. Our goal with such a young team was (at least) a section title.”
Now the goal is to add a rung to the ladder and get to the Prep Bowl in two weeks.
“It’s going to be warm, I’m very excited,” Drake said. “We’re not going down (to Minneapolis) to back off, we’re going down to take it to the next step.”
Drake was the primary reason the Rangers made it look so easy against the Panthers (8-3). He caught a 19-yard touchdown pass from Asher Zubich, broke off two long scoring runs and added an interception return for a fourth TD.
“He’s an animal,” coach Zubich said. “Sometimes he doesn’t hit the hole and gets stuffed and I get ticked at him. Other times he goes the wrong way and busts off 40-yard runs, and then I can’t yell at him.”
Drake denied the strategy was to run him left, right and middle on a frigid night that ended with snow coating the field.
“I don’t think that was the gameplan,” he said. “The gameplan was to run our system like we do, and whatever worked we’d keep doing. It happened to work a lot.”
Drake made Asher Zubich’s night an easy one. The freshman quarterback was 4-for-9 passing for 135 yards and he added 88 yards rushing on 12 attempts.
“Pick your poison,” Danny Zubich said describing how to stop the Rangers.
Asher Zubich hit Sam Lokken on a 5-yard scoring pass on the Rangers’ first possession and then the night turned into the Dillon Drake Show.
He caught a 19-yard toss from Zubich on fourth-and-12 to make it 14-0 and then took a pitch down the left sideline and cut between the final two defenders for an 81-yard touchdown on the next drive.
MIB made it four touchdowns in four possessions when Drake went the final 42 yards with 2:11 left in the first half.
“He’s always a reliable source; it’s great to have him,” Asher Zubich said.
Now the Rangers can turn their attention to playing indoors.
“It’s been our goal since the summer, just keep on working until we get there,” Asher Zubich said.
But make no mistake, as one of the few upperclassmen Drake took ahold of the younger players and explained to them how it’s done.
“It’s a young crew and I’m very proud of them,” Drake said. “During the summer, it was a little (so-so). I was with the older group last year who made it down to the Bank and we all knew what to do. I had to teach these guys a little bit but they caught on.”
South Ridge 0-0-0-6—6
Mountain Iron-Buhl 6-22-6-8—42
MIB — Sam Lokken 5 pass from Asher Zubich (pass failed)
MIB — Dillon Drake 19 pass from Zubich (Drake run)
MIB — Drake 81 run (pass failed)
MIB — Drake 42 run (Zubich run)
MIB — Drake 25 interception return (pass failed)
MIB — Zubich 1 run (Lokken pass from Zubich)
SR — Weston Stroschein 20 run (kick failed)