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Déjà vu in Rebels’ playoff loss to Easton Valley

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING - Gladbrook-Reinbeck’s Auston Wittgreve, left, can’t catch Easton Valley quarterback Conor Gruver during Friday’s 8-Man state football playoff game in Gladbrook.

GLADBROOK — Same opponent, same round, same result but different year. Everything felt a little too familiar for the No. 7 Gladbrook-Reinbeck Rebels (9-1) in their season-ending loss to No. 9 Easton Valley (9-1) Friday night in Gladbrook.

The Rebels fell 55-0 to the River Hawks one year after a 55-6 defeat in the round of 16 in the Eight-Man playoffs.

Head coach John Olson said the Rebels feared what happened in the second half of the game.

“Their speed, it showed,” Olson said. “We were hustling like crazy, our effort was fantastic, and their speed just got away from us there.”

G-R started the game with the ball, but the first drive resulted in a punt — the first hint of what would be a common theme throughout. Easton Valley was prepared for the Keagan Giesking-centric offense the Rebels trotted out for most of the season, and held Giesking to one yard on seven attempts in the first quarter. Meanwhile, the River Hawks drew first blood midway through the first quarter with a score from Porter Fuegen (the first of three on the night for Fuegen). The end of the first quarter was 6-0, but it still felt like the Rebels were in for a tough task to get back in the game.

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING

A touchdown from the River Hawks in the second quarter via Kolton Murphy pushed the lead to 14-0. G-R was still not putting any positive momentum together offensively, forced to punt with the majority of its first-half possessions. This is despite the Rebels trotting out plays that weren’t available at the start of the year due to the development of Isaac Clark as another option at quarterback and on the ground.

Giesking still had his share of carries but averaged less than two yards per attempt and didn’t attempt many passes. The package with Clark in the backfield alongside Giesking provided a different dynamic — but the plays were not successful for one reason or another, further showing the gulf in offensive speed and game-breaking ability between the two teams.

A missed opportunity at the end of the first half, when the Rebels threw an interception after a botched Easton Valley punt had set G-R up inside the red zone. The score was 14-0 at the break.

Two long touchdown runs from the River Hawks broke the game open. By the end of the third quarter, the running clock was on and the score was 41-0.

“It was just a little bit of here or there,” Olson said of the second half. “I don’t think it [was] one thing.”

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING

Giesking led the Rebels in rushing with 26 yards on 22 attempts in his final game. Clark had nine yards on four rushes. G-R could only gain 38 yards to Easton Valley’s 449.

Easton Valley had a 200-yard rusher in Murphy (209).

The loss, while filled with deja vu, does not take away from the Rebels’ strong season. This is only the second G-R team ever to start a season 9-0, Olson said.

Despite the heavy loss, he was positive about how the shortened season turned out for his relatively young squad.

“No matter what the schedule, no matter who you play, there’s only one other team that was 9-0,” Olson said. “And we’ve had some pretty successful teams here, so our kids are really proud of that.”

T-R PHOTO BY NOAH ROHLFING

Easton Valley plays Montezuma in the quarterfinals next Friday night.

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