DULUTH — The Mountain Iron-Buhl football team will be making their second straight trip to U.S. Bank Stadium, throttling Section 5 champion South Ridge 42-6 in the 9-Man State quarterfinals at Public School Stadium in Duluth.
Senior running back Dillon Drake was undoubtedly the man of the game for the Rangers, rushing for over 200 yards in the first half alone while accounting for three of the four MI-B scores. He finished with over 300 all-purpose yards to go along with two rushing touchdowns and a touchdown through the air in the first half and a pick-six in the second half.
Drake didn’t get the first score of the game, however, but he did manage to move the Rangers into good field position right off the bat. Drake took the pitch from quarterback Asher Zubich time after time to rack up more than 60 yards rushing in the first drive, all while moving his squad down field.
MI-B capped off that drive with a five yard touchdown pass from Zubich to Sam Lokken to put them up 6-0 in the early going.
The Rangers turned the Panthers over on downs on the next drive and started their next possession on their own 24-yard line. Immediately, Zubich hit Nikolas Jesch for a 59-yard reception that moved the Rangers to the South Ridge 17.
Some penalties pushed the Rangers back and they found themselves looking at a 4th and 12 from the 19 later in the drive. Zubich made the quick pass to Drake in the end zone for the second touchdown of the game. Drake ran in the two-point conversion and MI-B led 14-0 early in the second quarter.
South Ridge turned to backs Connor Bushbaum and Matt Clark to fuel their run game but the Panthers just couldn’t get anything going on the ground. All South Ridge came up with was punts and turnovers on downs.
Drake broke two more drives wide open with touchdown runs of 89 and 41 yards that gave Mountain Iron-Buhl a 28-0 lead heading into the halftime break. MI-B scored on every possession of the first half to fuel their dominant performance.
The Panther defense picked up the slack some in the third quarter, preventing the Rangers from scoring an offensive touchdown in the frame. But Drake proved to be just as threatening on defense in return.
Panthers quarterback Riley Kinsley looked to make a quick pass to one of his receivers, but Drake was right in his face and intercepted the ball not even two feet from where it was passed. Drake returned the interception 33 yards for a score, putting MI-B up 34-0 with just one quarter left to play.
The Rangers’ final score of the contest came early in the fourth with Zubich punching it in from a yard out. The two point pass from Zubich to Lokken was good making it 42-0.
South Ridge finally saw their side of the scoreboard light up with just under four minutes to play as Weston Stroschein broke free for a 19-yard rushing score to make the final score 42-6.
After the game, Rangers head coach Dan Zubich had nothing but praise for his team after getting the job done.
“Our guys came out and stuffed their power plays and forced them to come out in the spread in the second half,” Zubich started with. “That’s not their thing so we were pretty happy about that.
“We wanted to limit mistakes tonight and I think we did that outside of a couple dumb penalties. Other than that, we looked pretty good.”
On Drake’s play, Zubich said the senior captain has been leading the team all year and they’ll continue to look to him as the postseason continues.
“He’s a beast. He’s been carrying us all year. As long as he’s ready to go, we’re going to keep giving it to him.”
The win sends MI-B to their second straight 9-Man State semifinal game and their third total in school history. Zubich says being able to take another trip to U.S. Bank Stadium is huge for a squad that may have been overlooked in the beginning of the season.
“It’s especially important this year I think. People thought we wouldn’t be able to have this kind of year with half of our roster being freshmen. They told us it would be a rebuilding year and we’re showing them it’s not.”
MI-B will take on Hancock in the state semifinals on Thursday and Zubich knows his team will have to recover quickly and get focused on their next opponent.
“We got a couple guys banged up but it’s nothing major. We gotta get them healthy and then focus on the game ahead. It’s gonna be a cold week so we’ll be practicing indoors but the game is indoors anyway. It’s all mental reps at this point and I know our guys will be ready.”
SR 0 0 0 6 — 6
MIB 6 22 6 8 — 42
M: Sam Lokken 5 pass from Asher Zubich (pass failed)
M: Dillon Drake 19 pass from Zubich (Drake run)
M: Drake 89 run (pass failed)
M: Drake 41 run (Zubich run)
M: Drake 33 interception return (pass failed)
M: Zubich 1 run (Lokken pass from Zubich)
S: Weston Stroschein 19 run (kick failed)