Willmar Cardinals Football Preview
Marshall Tigers (4-4) at Willmar Cardinals (4-4)
Today, 7 p.m. at Hodapp Field
MARSHALL OVERVIEW: Like Willmar, Marshall got just what they needed going into the playoffs, an invigorating win after disheartening losses three of the previous four weeks. The Tigers knocked off Luverne 21-12, a Southwest Conference foe ranked No. 6 in Class AA, who came in 6-1. Junior fullback Brennan Cable had his best game, rushing for 183 yards in 24 attempts and two touchdowns. The Tigers' defense also took charge of the line of scrimmage holding the Cardinal offense to 170 yards. With the ground game piling up 257 yards, quarterback Andrew Larson threw just nine times for 41 yards and an interception. Marshall, also like Willmar, has several hard losses: 22-14 to Worthington in Week 7, 20-17 in overtime to Pipestone Area in Week 5 and 34-27 in the non-conference opener to Mankato East, the only Class AAAA team on the Tigers' schedule. Otherwise, Marshall plays a mixture of Class AAA and AA teams in the Southwest Conference.
WILLMAR OVERVIEW: Although both teams are 4-4, Willmar's strength of schedule (Class AAAA and one AAAAA opponent) gave it more seeding points and consequently the home-field edge. Surprisingly, this is the first football meeting between the cities -- only 70 miles apart -- since 1941 when Marshall ended a three-game set with a 2-0-1 advantage by whipping the Cardinals, 27-0. The winner tonight plays the Hutchinson-New Ulm winner on Saturday. No. 2-seeded Hutchinson has won seven straight. By rankings, this is the toughest section with defending state champion Mankato West (8-0) voted No. 1 in the state rankings all season and Hutchinson at No. 5. Willmar is 1-7 in first-round games since joining this grouping. The Cardinals have the momentum of a 42-12 win over St. Cloud Apollo, which ended a three-game losing streak.