There are just some things that go together — macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, and Wibaux football and a power running game.
“That’s the difference, is the 6-Man game is so spread out. You can’t do the downhill run football, and that’s what this team is built for," Wibaux head coach Jeff Bertelsen told MTN Sports. "Our running backs, Wyatt (Ree) and Will (Ree), are downhill runners and our line up front, we’re a little undersized, but those kids give me everything they’ve got and aren’t afraid to mix it up."
It’s a return to the old style of football that made the Longhorns perennial contenders in the 8-Man ranks, making 13 title games from 1991-2014. Wibaux spent a few years playing 6-Man, where it played for and won a state title in 2018 and finished runner-up in 2019. But the return of Bertelsen as the head man 2021 meant the move to 8-Man was soon to follow.
“I’m real happy that the kids and the community supported us going back to 8-Man. I’m an 8-Man guy. I think the kids really responded," Bertelsen said. "We took some learning early, some things you take for granted — these kids had never played a down of 8-Man in their career, so we had to get some things figured out.”
Of course, a successful ground game wouldn’t be possible without the horses to shoulder the load. The Ree brothers have been just that for the Longhorns, as they fit the mold of blue-collar kids that have thrived under Bertelsen.
“Me and my brother, Will, we’re the running backs right now and we like our physical games. We’re tied at the hip and we’ll probably be like that the rest of our lives," Wyatt Ree said.
“They make me look a lot better than I am. I can call a wrong play and they can break a tackle and some things like that," Bertelsen said. "Our line knows that, too. They know if they make a mistake that those guys can clean up that mess a little bit on offense and whatnot, so it gives confidence to everybody on the team."
Wibaux’s return to 8-Man prominence continues this weekend in the playoffs at Northern division champion and defending state champion Belt on Saturday. While that trip is just over 350 miles, it pales in comparison to the near 600-mile trek for the opening round at Valley Christian. So how do they pass the time on the bus?
"We had a Madden tournament, six-team bracket. All the boys on the team had a Madden tournament. I didn't do very well," said Ree, who likes to play with the Cleveland Browns and tries to emulate the rushing style of Nick Chubb.
"They won't let me play. They know they're in trouble," Bertelsen laughed. "I kept watching film."
Bertelsen's favorite Madden play call? Probably fullback dive. Belt and Wibaux are set for a 1 p.m. kickoff on Saturday.