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Rebels rip off 25th straight GR defeats Wolverines in home opener

September 10, 2017
Thorn Compton - Central Iowa Press , Reinbeck Courier

GLADBROOK - When Class A No. 2 Gladbrook-Reinbeck and Dike-New Hartford lined up across the field Friday night at The Pit, the action on the field resembled more of a street brawl than a football game, as the Rebels and Wolverines traded haymakers and jabs throughout the contest.

Dike-New Hartford drew first blood in the match, but after falling down 7-0 in the first quarter G-R roared back and landed blow after blow to eventually take the 19-7 victory in its home opener.

Senior Walker Thede, who delivered the final slobberknocker of the game with a 43-yard pick-six off a pass from Wolverines quarterback Cade Fuller, said opening up his final set of home games with a win was almost more than he could handle.

"Senior year, a lot of emotions are running through your head," he said after the victory. "You come out here for the first time and you just remember all these memories from the past three years. Coming out here and being able to get the W is huge for me honestly, especially against a team like Dike-New Hartford that's a tough team. They are fun to play against and I am just so happy with the guys that we've got that we can come out here and take the W."

While the Rebels (2-0) were ultimately victorious, G-R definitely struggled both offensively and defensively to start the game. The Wolverines (1-2) dominated time of possession in the first half by holding the ball for 18 minutes compared to six for the Rebels, but ultimately the G-R defense only surrendered seven points.

Rebels head coach John Olson said he actually thought the team showed quite a bit of growth in the win on Friday, but they didn't execute quite as well as they did against Grundy Center in week one.

"We are constantly telling our kids in the preseason that we have to get better, and we did get better from this game to the last game," he said. "We still had our same execution problems on offense and we had some mistakes. Defensively I think we went down execution-wise, but I think we had better results because we were more physical, we got better on the physical side of the ball tonight."

While they gave up time of possession and yards in the first half, the G-R defense was able to keep Dike-New Hartford off the board, holding the Wolverines scoreless in two of three trips into the red zone. Olson said that kind of defensive play has been the calling card of his teams of late, and he was happy to see them execute when the field shortened.

"Historically if you look at our defense, we are a bend but don't break type of defense. I didn't call a defense tonight because it is all set and ready to go," Olson said. "We run the same thing all the time, we rack to it and get better as the game goes along. That's why it's frustrating when we don't line up the right way, but as the field gets tighter, it gets harder."

It wasn't until the third offensive drive of the game, deep in the second quarter, that the Rebels were able to get on the board with a 1-yard run by senior Gage Murty. While Murty eventually scored, it was two brilliant plays by Thede that set up the score, one a 42-yard catch and run through the heart of the defense and one a 17-yard screen that put the Rebels at first and goal.

Thede said he knew the team needed a spark to get things going offensively, so when he got a chance to provide that on his long catch he made the most of the scenario.

"I broke those two tackles and I saw open field, so I was just looking for that next open area," he said. "I was scanning the field and looking for that next biggest spot I could find, then I looked up and I had guy's in front of me blocking, thank God, and I just kept going down the field until I couldn't go any further."

Olson said, when you have a special player on the team like Thede, sometimes you have to get the ball in his hands and let him make a play in space.

"We've got some special players on this team for sure," he said. "Walker is one of those players on our team that, it's no different than when he was in third grade, you give the fast kid the ball. Sometimes it's that simple, whether it be a toss sweep or whether it's a 5-yard hitch when they are playing 10 yards off of you. What do you do at recess? You give that kid the ball and let him make plays."

The third quarter opened up with a stalemate, with neither the Rebels or Wolverines gaining much ground on the opposing defense. That was the case until G-R quarterback Hunter Lott found senior Matt Johannsen behind his defender and delivered a beautiful pass just over the fingertips of the corner for a 45-yard touchdown to put the Rebels up 12-7.

After a failed two-point conversion, however, G-R was still only a touchdown away from defeat, and it found itself backed against its own end zone yet again with the Wolverines at fourth and goal. Once again, the defense held and Thede came up with an interception to end the Dike-New Hartford scoring chance.

"Going into these games and being able to make those big plays, it just means a lot to me," Thede said. "I see the ball in the air and go get it and then immediately I'm looking up field. It wasn't all me there, I am pretty sure it was Cael Wyatt who made a huge play there to tip it, but I came out with the ball and was looking up field and that was great."

On the ensuing offensive possession, the Rebels were at third and long deep in their own territory off the pick and needed a play to get them out of a jam, and Johannsen's number was called again as he made an outstanding play to climb the ladder and catch a third-down pass from Lott to extend the drive.

"I knew I just had to get us to a first down so we could keep the clocking running and running, so I tried to make a good play and it just happened," Johannsen said of the 36-yard snag.

Johannsen made one last play to end the game, as he intercepted Fuller's last-breath attempt as the clock reached zero and the Rebels rolled to their second-straight victory.

Olson said they will take the good with the bad from Friday's victory and work on the things they can fix moving on to next week's matchup with North Tama.

"This is why you have preseason games," he said. "We aren't amazing in week one or week two, we usually start to gather a storm here a little bit and get a little bit better. I hope that's what it will be, but if we start thinking about the future it's not going to be so hot, so we have to focus on the right now."

 
 

 

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