WILLMAR -- The Willmar Cardinals put up 27 uncontested points in the first half and rode that to a 27-14 win over Alexandria on Friday.
Homecoming evening drew a crowd estimated over 2,000. A full moon rose in the east. The temperature was just under 70-degrees at halftime when the Cardinal royalty was introduced followed by 2012 Cardinal Pride Hall of Fame inductees Jeff Welker and Andrea (Lentz) Winghart.
On the field, the hometown Cardinals overpowered the visiting Redbirds the first two quarters -- one big-yardage play after another. By halftime, Willmar had piled up 325 yards of offense.
Linebackers Trey Tollefson and Zech Streed would lead the "D" with 15 stops each.
Big plays got the ball deep into Alex territory but three of the four six-pointers were a 1-yard plowing contest -- two by fullback Zech Streed and one by quarterback Alex Grove.
The other was a 21-yard pass to wide out Brandon Christenson.
The win was Willmar's first in Central Lake' contests and ended a three-game slide, two of those by a single point.
Alexandria (1-4, 1-4) is a young team that will be stronger next year.
The Cardinals are back on their own Willmar Avenue turf next Friday, against the Monticello Magic (4-1), a foe in the new Section 6AAAAA. The Magic, ranked No. 8, lost 10-7 to neighboring Rogers last night.
Grove's 42-yard pass to Christenson streaking down the middle of the field set up the first score at the one. Patrick Courtney's running interception at the Willmar two anchored a 98-yard drive for the next TD. Running back Michael Heitzman gained 26 on a pass play, Grove kept for 15 and passed to Austin Rambow who for 13 to the Alex two.
A muffed punt attempt led to a 27-yard drive for a 20-0 lead. Cole Hagen's fumble recovery at midfield set up the final score. Grove carried 15 to the one.
Alex fought back with two second half scores, a 13-yard-run by sophomore Jake Bear coming out of the halftime locker room and an 82-yard dash by junior Mitchell Peck against the reserves.
Grove threw for 281 yards on 17 of 23 including 12 of 14 for 248 yards in the first half. Heitzman ran for 81 yards and Rambow caught six passes for 133 yards and Christenson 4 for 80.
Cornerback Tyler Stegeman also got a pick and Courtney appeared to have a second theft but the official didn't agree.
Willmar 27, Alexanria 14
Alexandria (1-4, 1-5) 0 0 7 7 -- 14
Willmar (1-3, 2-3) 6 21 0 0 -- 27
Wil - Zech Streed 1 run (kick fail)
Wil - Streed 1 run (Patrick Courtney kick)
Wil - Brandon Christenson 21 pass from Alex Grove (Courtney kick)
Wil - Grove 1 run (Courtney kick)
Alx - Jake Bear 13 run (Chandler Davis kick)
Alx - Mitchell Peck 82 run (Davis kick)
First downs: 16 ... Rushing: 41-281 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 8-19-97-2 ... Fumbles lost: 1 ... Penalties: 9-62
Rushing: John Vogeler 13-44 Mitchell Peck 13-165, Jake Bear 10-29, Nathan Huss 5-43 ... Passing: Vogeler 8-19-97-2 ... Receiving: Tyler Kelly 1-(-1), Parker Bowden 1-25, Mitch Thompson 1-10, Bear 2-12, Nathan Huss 1-19, Peck 1-11 ... Punting: xx Steidl 1-45.0... Interceptions: Bowden
First downs: 20 ... Rushing: 35-141 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 16-23-281-1 ... Fumbles lost: 0 ... Penalties: 7-78
Rushing: Michael Heitzman 20-81, Alex Grove 10-56, Zech Streed 3-3... Passing: Grove 16-23-281-1 ... Receiving: Austin Rambow 6-133, Heitzman 2-44, Chris Cunningham 3-18, Patrick Courtney 1-8, Brandon Christenson 4-80.... Punting: Streed 1-47.0 ... Interceptions: Courtney, Tyler Stegeman ... Fumble recoveries: Cole Hagen ... Tackles (solo-assist): Cunningham 1-1, Hunter Mottinger 1-1, Zech Streed 5-10, Patrick Courtney 3-0, Tyler Stegeman 1-21, Jordan Geurtz 4-4, Jacob Croonquist 1-3, Trey Tollefson 5-10, Cole Hagen 1-1, Josh Kelly 2-1, Leon Richards 1-1, Zac Rudolph 1-2, Cass Herzog 4-1, Bart Kerfeld 1-1, Travis Deegan 2-2... Tackle-for-loss: Kelly 1-(-1)