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State Class AA football: Pipestone Area advances to title game

Pipestone Area's Jordan Baatz comes up on Moose Lake/Willow River's Eli Werner during Friday's Class AA semifinal football game at US Bank Stadium. (Rick Weegman/Duluth News)

MINNEAPOLIS -- Scoring 28 unanswered points after falling behind 6-0 in the first quarter, the Pipestone Area Arrows defeated Moose Lake/Willow River 28-6 in the Minnesota Class AA football semifinals Friday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis.

The Arrows (12-1), who are competing in the state tournament for the third time in four years, will face an undefeated Caledonia team in the championship game next Friday at 1 p.m. at U.S. Bank Stadium.

Caledonia (12-0) shut out Pipestone Area 40-0 in the 2015 state title game. The Warriors qualified for the 2017 championship contest on Thursday with a 49-16 semifinal win over Paynesville Area.

Moose Lake/Willow River, which entered Friday’s afternoon game against Pipestone Area with a 7-5 record and five consecutive victories, scored the first touchdown of the game with 3:11 remaining in the opening period on a 3-yard run by Trent Juhl. The point-after was missed.

Pipestone Area erupted with 20 points in the second quarter, and senior all-purpose wide receiver Tyl Woelber had a hand in every score.

With 10:56 showing on the second quarter clock, PA quarterback Cody Thompson found Woelber for a 28-yard scoring pass. The extra point was unsuccessful, leaving the game deadlocked at 6-6.

But with 6:57 remaining until halftime, Woelber himself completed a 64-yard touchdown pass to running back Garrett Ploeger. It was 12-6 following another missed conversion.

Just 2:02 remained until intermission when Thompson threw his second touchdown pass -- to Woelber naturally. The 6-0, 170-pounder, who won a state high jumping competition in the spring, ran untouched 71 yards down the sideline for the score. This time the Arrows gained the tack-on, too, as Thompson passed to Braeden Rieck for a 2-point conversion.

Leading 20-6 at halftime, the Arrows showed that by stretching out the field they could move the football against a Moose Lake/Willow River defense that had squelched PA’s running attack in the first half.

Thompson was the Arrows’ leading rusher at halftime with 20 yards. As a team, the Section 3AA champs gained just 26 rushing yards by intermission.

The only points scored in the second half was by Pipestone Area again, with 5:52 showing on the third quarter clock following a Moose Lake/Willow River fumble. It was Woelber again (who else) who scooped up the Colton Little miscue on the Rebels’ own 20-yard line and returned it five yards to the 15.

On first down, Thompson passed to Rieck, who pushed inside the 1-yard line. On second down, Thompson ran ahead for the score.

A 2-point conversion pass to Woelber made it 28-6 and capped the scoring.

Moose Lake/Willow River is a running team that doesn’t pass often. After falling behind by 22 points, however, the Rebels had to put the ball in the air if they were to hope for a comeback. But the Pipestone Area defense continually rose to the occasion, tackling the Rebels often for losses and forcing them into numerous fourth-and-long situations.

Final totals showed Thompson completing 10 of 14 passes for 209 yards for a 153.3 quarterback rating. Woelber completed 2 of 2 for 64 yards while pulling in five receptions for 124 yards.

Rieck caught four passes for 67.

Ploeger led Pipestone Area in rushing with 22 yards on 10 carries as the Arrows as a team accounted for just 45 yards on 25 tries.

Juhl, alone, ran 24 times for 136 yards for Moose Lake/Willow River, and Little rushed 17 times for 78. Moose Lake/Willow River quarterback Ian Coli completed 11 of 25 aerials for 70 yards.

Pipestone Area 0 20 8 0 -- 28Moose Lake/WR 6 0 0 0 -- 6