Moose Lake-Willow River wanted Caledonia. None of the one-game-at-a-time mumbo jumbo. Since losing in the 2011 Prep Bowl, the Rebels have waited and plotted and dreamed of a rematch with the team that beat them in the Class 2A championship game.
After their 27-20 victory over Jackson County Central in the Class 2A semifinals Thursday, the Rebels will get their wish.
"I've thought Caledonia every day since last year," said senior running back Michael Pender, who scored two first-half touchdowns. "We've got another shot at them, and we're not going to blow it."
The Rebels were not flawless; they fumbled once, flubbed two punt snaps and were just one of six on fourth-down conversions. But they racked up 300 rushing yards to overcome the miscues.
Running back Jake Disterhaupt had 173 yards from scrimmage -- 105 rushing, 68 receiving -- and scored a touchdown. Mike Gassert added a 4-yard scoring run in the fourth quarter, giving the Rebels a two-touchdown lead.
The margin proved vital when Jackson County Central's Darick Vancura shed numerous tacklers on a 30-yard touchdown run with just under six minutes remaining.
"We don't get a lot of these kinds of games during the season, so our experience here is the real key," Rebels coach Dave Louzek said. "Our kids have to step up and be ready for the challenge of playing four quarters, and they've been able to do that."
Even Louzek admitted that playing Caledonia was in his team's sights all season.
"From Day One, the whole goal has been to get a rematch with Caledonia," Louzek said. "We tell the kids that if they want to be the best, they have to beat the best. And Caledonia is the best there is in 2A football."