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Lakers take down Duluth Central 25-14 -- DL football scores key conference win Friday

Surviving some self-inflicted wounds throughout the first half, the Detroit Lakes football team showed some new tactics in the third and fourth quarters to help lead the Lakers to an important 25-14 North Country Conference victory at Duluth Central Friday.

The Lakers' defense and offense took turns having the spotlight on them, as the former kept DL in the game by holding the score 0-0 at half, despite the latter having four turnovers -- including three fumbles.

The offense took over in the second half, which was keyed by some proper adjustments at halftime, a new look no-huddle offense and the loosening up of Duluth Central's perimeter defense.

All these aspects were glued together by DL's "platooning" format -- which basically meant the Lakers had 11 players playing only one way for the majority of the game.

"The platooning came up big tonight for us," said senior DL defensive end Brock Johnson. "Our defense was ready to go in the second half and in the fourth quarter. We got on them later in the game and they were getting tired, while we were still good to go. It was huge for us."

The Lakers also introduced their no-huddle offense, which played a big part in getting them into a proper rhythm, and that eventually led to a 25-point second half.

"(Quarterback) Reed Oistad did a phenomenal job running the no-huddle," said DL head coach Flint Motschenbacher. "The defense saved us by keeping them scoreless in the first half. Our offense couldn't do anything right in the first half."

The Trojans left their opportunities on the field in the first half, after not producing any points off of DL's four turnovers.

Duluth Central snapped 34 plays to DL's 20 in the first half, but while the Laker defense bent a bit, it didn't let the Trojans -- and their star running back Quinton Witherspoon -- find the end zone.

"The kids just stepped up there in the first half," said DL defensive coordinator Rob Nielsen. "We coaches told them they had to match Duluth Central's physical style of play because they are so big up front, and our kids matched that.

"The kids just played well. We didn't run anything special, no blitzes. Our kids were just hitting and playing well off the ball."

The scoreless knot was snapped and shattered in the third quarter, with 27 points combined from both teams.

That dam sprung its first leak on special teams, as a bad snap over DL punter Johnson's head on the their first possession set the Trojans up in good territory at the Lakers' 14.

Witherspoon found a crease through the middle off right tackle and slithered for six points -- and the scoring slew was on.

The Lakers used special teams to set up their first score, as well, as senior fullback and return man Dustin Rietsema rambled with the ensuing kickoff 44 yards down the visitor's sideline to start the next series at the Trojan 48.

The no-huddle offense was unveiled on first and 10 at the Central 33, which gained a setup inside the Trojan five -- all on rushes.

But the home team's defense -- which was also playing stout -- stiffened and forced a fourth and goal from the Central seven.

Oistad and the DL coaches identified a mismatch on the outside with the 6-3 wideout Josh Stalberger lined up one-on-one against 5-7 cornerback Dan Erickson.

Oistad lofted his pass to a fading Stalberger, who easily outreached Erickson for the touchdown.

Witherspoon, who had picked up 54 yards rushing in the first quarter and was being held in check up to the third quarter, broke off a 68-yard dashing end zone run after sneaking through the line and into the open space.

After that 68-yard run, Witherspoon was limited to just 11 yards on five carries the rest of the game.

"We don't have anyone who can catch him when he breaks free like that," Nielsen added.

With both teams missing extra-point kicks on their first TDs, the Trojans pounded in their two-point run on a Joe Serre bulrush up the middle to put the score at 14-6 in their favor.

DL started working the outer edges and the flat to seam areas with their passing game and end-around slotback runs on their next possession.

With the Trojan defense and their bulky middle of the line keying on Rietsema --who was held to just 17 yards on seven carries in the first half -- one of the beneficiaries of the open space around the edges was slotback Max Knoll.

Entering the second half with one carry for negative 11 yards, Knoll found lots of running room around end and also on boot and seam route passes by Oistad.

Knoll had five carries for 70 yards in the second half, with 59 net in the game, while catching all his receptions in the third and fourth quarters with three for 58 yards.

"Our passing game was able to open up the edges and we went out and found it," said Knoll, who gouged the Trojan offense in the fourth quarter for 71 combined yards. "We knew our effort was going to be there and we just went out and got it."

Oistad also hit his other slotback, Aaron Gnoinsky, for a 20-yard gain on DL's second scoring drive. Rietsema followed with a 24-yard pickup on the ground, and Stalberger was hit on a slant for a first down and 15 more yards to reach the Trojan 15.

Gnoinsky took another right end rush to the three, where Oistad scored the first of three consecutive rushing TDs. The Lakers were started to establish control, but still trailed 14-13 going into the fourth quarter.

The ball possession also shifted big time, with DL having 23 plays from line of scrimmage in the third quarter, to Central's six.

"Our coaches did a great job adjusting the defense and the kids went out and played hard and kept going after it," Motschenbacher said. "That platooning came up big, too, because it kept everyone fresh."

The Laker defense also made the Trojans one-dimensional, as quarterback Anthony Buchberger completed just one pass for five yards on the night.

That was evident, too, as Central only had one first down in the entire second half to DL's 15, which kept the tiring Trojans out on the field.

DL used a nine-play, 81-yard scoring drive to take its first lead, which was all picked up by Knoll and Rietsema. Then they capped on an Oistad eight-yard TD run up through the middle of the Trojan defense, which was feeling the effects of a long second half for an 18-14 lead with 7:44 remaining in regulation.

The Central offense, which had Witherspoon finishing with 178 yards rushing on the night, couldn't produce a first down, despite having a huge weight advantage on the line of scrimmage.

"We just didn't want to be pushed back," Johnson said. "Everyone was doing their part on defense tonight."

The finishing blows came on a Central bad snap to its punter with just over five minutes left, as DL took over on the Trojan 28. After a Knoll 23-yard run around left end, Oistad took it in from five yards out to knock the Trojans down and out for the two-possession lead at 25-14.

Oistad led the Lakers in rushing with 79 yards, but also kept a nice balance to the offense with his best game passing, after throwing for 126 yards and a 9-17 night with one interception.

The win is a big one for the Lakers, who are now 3-1 and 3-0 in the conference.

"Our team really grew up as a team tonight," Motschenbacher said. "It's a key conference win."

"It's huge," Knoll added. "Our goal is to win the conference and this is a big one to get."

The Lakers will be back at the Duluth Public Schools Field Friday for a 5:15 p.m. start when they play conference foe Duluth Denfeld.

Laker results

Detroit Lakes at Duluth Central, Friday, Sept. 19.

Lakers 25, Trojans 14

Detroit Lakes - 0 0 13 12 -- 25

Duluth Central - 0 0 14 0 -- 14

DC - Quinton Witherspoon 11-yard run; kick failed. 8:07, 3rd quarter.

DL - Josh Stalberger 7-yard pass from Reed Oistad; kick failed. 3rd.

DC - Witherspoon 68-yard run; Joe Serre run. 3:13, 3rd.

DL - Oistad 3-yard run; pass failed. 1:24, 3rd.

DL - Oistad 8-yard run; pass failed. 7:44, 4th.

DL - Oistad 5-yard run; Steven Labine kick. 4:22, 4th.


First Downs 20 7

By Rushing 11 6

By passing 6 1

By penalty 3 0

Net Yards Rushing 232 229

No. rushes 42 43

Yards gained 254 247

Yards lost 22 18

Net Yards Passing 126 5

No. passes 17 7

Completed 9 1

Incomplete 7 4

Had intercepted 1 2

Interception yards 1 0

Total Offensive Plays 61 53


Kickoffs 5 3

Yards 221 133

Ave. kickoff 44.2 44.3

Kickoffs Returned 2 5

Yards 57 64

Ave. return 28.5 12.8

Fumbles 5 3

Fumbles lost 3 1

Penalties 6 8

Yards 35 40

* * *

Individual Rushing

DL --

Player NR YG YL Net

Reed Oistad 16 88 9 79

Max Knoll 6 70 11 59

Dustin Rietsema 16 58 2 56

Aaron Gnoinsky 4 38 0 38

Duluth Central -

Quinton Witherspoon 23 178 0 178

Joe Serre 7 29 0 29

Taylor Pennington 9 33 11 22

Montclair Chapman 1 7 0 7

Dan Erickson 2 0 4 (-4)

Anthony Buchberger 1 0 3 (-3)

* * *

Individual Passing

Player No Comp Inc Int Yds TD

DL --

Oistad 17 9 7 1 126 1

Duluth Central -

Buchberger 6 1 3 2 5 0

Pennington 1 0 1 0 0 0

* * *

Pass Receiving

Player No. Yds. TD

DL --

Josh Stalberger 4 35 1

Knoll 3 58 0

Gnoinsky 1 20 0

Rietsema 1 13 0

Duluth Central -

Jarrel Harris 1 5 0

* * *


Player No. Yds. Ave.

DL --

Brock Johnson 5 221 44.2

Duluth Central -

Jake Snyder 3 133 44.3

* * *

Kickoffs Returned

Player No. Yds. Ave.

DL --

Rietsema 2 57 28.5

Duluth Central -

Erickson 3 50 16.7

Chapman 1 9 9

No. 27 1 5 5

* * *

Pass Interceptions

Player No. Yds.

DL -

Josh Tweeton 1 1

Stalberger 1 0

Duluth Central -

Harris 1 0

* * *


Player No. Yds. lost

DL -


Duluth Central -