Willmar football quarterfinals preview
Though both teams went 4-4, the Wildcats finished in front of Willmar in the QRF rankings by a slim margin due to three of their four losses were to teams that went 7-1 (Hutchinson, Delano, 3A Glencoe-Silver Lake). Although two of Willmar's four losses were to 5A teams and a third to Rocori (7-1), it wasn't enough to move ahead of the Wildcats who finished 23rd to the Cardinals' 27th place among 51 schools in the division. Tonight's winning team will play at No. 1 seed Mankato West (8-0) at 3 p.m. Saturday. No. 2 Hutchinson (8-0) also has a bye. In the other game today, No. 6 Mankato East (3-5) is at No. 3 Marshall (8-0).
This is the first meeting ever in football for these towns. Waconia is a growing community along the edge of the West Metro. The Wildcats play in the Wright County Conference, which includes three 3A schools. The Cards and Cats posted similar stats this season: Willmar has averaged 22.4 ppg while allowing 25.5 compared to Waconia's 21.4 and 22.1. Both ended the regular season with two wins to pull up to .500. The Cats' offensive trademark is a power running game triggered by 6-4, 225-pound QB Maxx Williams (6.0 yards per carry). Senior tailback Logan Baumann averages over 8 yards per carry. Willmar coach Jon Konold compares Baumann to Fergus Falls' RB Hayden Zenner, who sprang for 222 yards last Tuesday against the Cards. The Cats' big line will also create room for FB Riley Trnka (4.0 ypc). Williams and backup Cody Clark together average less then 10 throws per game but use it to advantage for long gainers.
The Cardinals' come-from-behind victories to close the Central Lakes schedule gave them a 4th-place finish at 4-3; Rocori and Brainerd each finish 5-1 and St. Cloud Tech 4-1. The Cardinals started the season riding the air waves but now are nearly 50-50. The passing game has piled up 1,299 yards and the running game 2,377. Junior QB Alex Grove rushed for 121 yards at Fergus and senior RB Alfred Richards 162 yards. Grove is passing at a 55 -percent clip with 7 TDs and 3 INTs. Senior WR Dean Stier had one of greatest games ever by a Cardinal receiver last Tuesday. He caught 10 passes totaling 185 yards and 3 TDS. The offensive line makes it possible for backs and receivers to mount the gaudy stats. Senior tackle Matt Cordes has been the "Iron Man" on the line, not leaving the field the last six weeks, including playing on all special teams. Junior two-way starting lineman Cass Herzog returned to the lineup last week after missing 1½ games with an ankle sprain. He started on offense and played sparingly on defense. Sophomore Leon Richards and juniors Kristof Jensen and Anthony Woods have each gained valuable experience filling in.