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Tribune photo by Rand Middleton Elk River junior Austin Larson runs for a first down in the second quarter on a quarterback keeper chased by Buzzy Tollefson, from left, Patrick Courtney and Hunter Mottinger on Tuesday in Willmar. Larson ran for 134 yards and two touchdowns in the first half.

Prep football: Elks stampede Cardinals

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Prep football: Elks stampede Cardinals
Willmar Minnesota 2208 Trott Ave. SW / P.O. Box 839 56201

WILLMAR -- If this is the 5A football playoffs ... uff da!!

Bumped up the big-school level just below the new Super 32, the Cardinals got mugged on their own field Tuesday night.


Feeling frisky after grinding through a 6A schedule, the Elk River Elks overpowered Willmar 51-28 at Hodapp Field with perhaps 700 on hand.

The Elks (4-5) led 30-7 by intermission and 44-7 after three periods of the Section 6-5A quarterfinal.

The Willmar defense seemed confused by the Elks' flashy execution. Deploying an old-time full-house backfield behind a tight seven-man line, the Elks had stampeded for four touchdowns and a field goal by halftime. Five quickly executed marches the first 24 minutes covered 44 yards, 64 yards, 92 yards, 80 yards and 56 yards -- all accomplished without a single pass.

Elk River quarterback Austin Larson dazzled with his fakes and keepers. It was a guessing game who had the ball. He shuffled the ball like a crooked card dealer, often slipping the pigskin into his hip pocket and slipping out the side door.

Thousand-yard back Denis Bardashevskiy had 154 yards by half and Larson 124 yards, which was only five less than the entire Willmar offense over the same two quarters.

Larson's 27-yard field goal as the end of the half made it 30-7 and somewhere someone may have chortled "And there is your dagger."

In eight regular season games, the Cardinal defense hadn't allowed more than 3 TDs and a high of 22 points. But the Elks were a different beast, obviously much better than a No. 5 seed in a six-team section would indicate.

The Willmar bright spot in the first half was an 81-yard touchdown in the second quarter when Alex Grove throwing on the run hit Brandon Christenson in full stride down the Cardinal sideline.

Grove ran for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter and then took to the sidelines ending his outstanding three-year tenure as the starting QB.

Sophomore Augustine Hahn took over and provided a glimpse of what looks like a bright future for Willmar football. Hahn ran 19 yards for one score and threw to junior Adam Nibaur 18-yards for another. Hahn quarterbacked a JV team that finished 7-1 while the freshman class went 8-1.

Defensively, linebacker Jordan Geurtz sifted through the Elks' maze to make 10 solo tackles. Sophomore linebacker Vaughn Johnson got a shot on varsity and responded with 7 tackles.

Grove ran 60 yards but was able to complete just three passes. Two-way player Zech Streed ran for 34 yards and made 6 tackles. Michael Heitzman returned to the line-up and had a couple of good runs. Hahn ran for 58 yards against the Elks' reserves.

Bardashevskiy finished with 20 carries for 211 yards (10.1 average) plus a 91-yard kickoff return. Larson finished with 196 yards in 15 keepers (13.0) and scored half his teams points. The Elks play at neighboring No. 1 Rogers on Saturday. No. 3 St. Michael-Albertville beat No. 6 Buffalo 34-23 and will play at No. 2 Monticello.

Willmar ends up 4-5 on a squad with 23 seniors.

Twenty-five years ago these same two teams played three straight section games (1987-89). Willmar won the first two to go to state, 24-21 at Elk River and 35-19 at Willmar. The next year the lower-seeded Elks came back to Willmar to play the undefeated Cards (8-0) and the outcome was similar to last night, a 31-0 win for the lower-seeded visitors from Elk River.

Elk River 51, Willmar 28

Elk River (3-5) 14 16 14 7-- 51

Willmar (4-4) 0 7 0 21-- 21

ER - Maclean Berglove 1 run (Austin Larson kick)

ER - Larson 14 run (Larson kick)

ER - Larson 7 run (Larson kick)

Wil - Brandon Christenson 81 pass from Alex Grove (Patrick Courtney kick)

ER - Berglove 1 run (kick blocked)

ER - Larson 27 field goal

ER - Larson 44 yards (Larson kick)

ER - Bardashevskiy 3 run (Nate Storby kick)

Wil - Grove 4 run (Courtney kick)

ER - Bardashevskiy 91 kickoff return (Storby kick)

Wil - Augustine Hahn 19 run (Courtney kick)

Wil - Adam Nibaur 18 pass from Hahn (Courtney kick)

Elk River

Team statistics

First downs: 20 ... Rushing: 55-483 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 0-0-0-0 ... Fumbles lost: 0 ... Penalties: 9-83

Individual statistics

Rushing: Austin Larson 15-196, Denis Bardashevskiy 20-211, Nate Storby 4-32, Devin Donelson 3-5, Maclean Berglove 6-15 ... Passing: none ... Receiving: none ... Punting: none ... Interceptions: Terry Hadden ...


Team statistics

First downs: 13 ... Rushing: 39-204 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 5-10-113-1 ... Fumbles lost: x ... Penalties: 6-60

Individual statistics

Rushing: Michael Heitzman 6-22, Alex Grove 13-60, Zech Streed 5-34, Braydon Johnson 7-30, Augustine Hahn 8-58 ... Passing: Grove 3-8-81-1, Hahn 2-2-32-0 ... Receiving: Johnson 1-14, Patrick Courtney 1-5, Streed 1-(-5), Adam Nibaur 1-18, Brandon Christenson 1-81 ... Punting: Streed 4-33.3 ... Interceptions: none ... Fumble recoveries: none ... Tackles (solo-assist): Hunter Mottinger 5-1, Tyler Stegeman 2-1, Streed 1-5, JordanGeurtz 10-3, Buzzy Tollefson 3-1, Travis Deegan 2-1, Vaughn Johnson 5-2, Kristof Jensen 2-3 ... QB sacks: none ... Blocked kick: Stegeman

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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