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Willmar football weekly preview

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Friday's matchup: Brainerd (1-0, 1-0) at Willmar (1-0, 1-0), 7 p.m.

WARRIORS OVERVIEW: Ron Stolski’s boys return to Willmar for the fourth visit in five years, one of the abnormalities in the Central Lakes Conference’s unbalanced schedule that has seen Willmar at Sauk Rapids four of five years. The Warriors also were on the road last week, crushing Class 4A Fergus Falls 72-14. After one year in the 6A Super 32, Brainerd is back in 5A in Section 7, which includes Bemidji. Against the Otters, the visitors scored 27 points in the first quarter and led by 48 at half. Operating out of a two-running back shotgun, the ground-hugging Warriors rushed for 403 yards and passed for 73 (4 of 7). Running backs Conor Gessel (12 carries-130 yards), Logan Davis (10-72) and QB Thomas Stoxen (6-56) proved hard to contain. The Warriors also scored on a punt return and an interception and recovered three fumbles. Typically, Brainerd confronts CLC foes with superior depth, meaning full platoon, and Willmar won’t meet a team this year that executes with any greater precision. It seems unlikely, the Warriors can be held to three scores, as they were here last year here, so Willmar will have its offense in overdrive all four quarters to keep pace. 

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CARDINALS OVERVIEW: If you missed a chance to sky dive this summer or didn’t make it to Valley Fair, the new edition of the Willmar Cardinals took fans on a roller coaster ride Friday night. Up, up and away they went in the first two quarters, followed at the apex by a belly-churning drop in the third quarter. In timely fashion, senior safety Tyler Stegeman parachuted in early in the fourth quarter to make a pick six and save the day ending a 30-point Storm run.

“They’re a good football team,” commented coach Jon Konold on the Storm on Tuesday. “They’re solid; better than a year ago. When they went to just the running the ball, they were pushing us off the line of scrimmage. We were moving people in and out to keep them fresh but we were giving things up. Maybe we got tired; we must make sure we stay focused.”

The offense rolled up 476 yards to 402 for Sauk. A couple of holding penalties and two interceptions pulled the plug on the offense in the second half. In an astonishing varsity debut, junior quarterback Augustine Hahn piled up 402 yards of offense (21 of 32 for 328 yards passing, 1 TD, 2 INT; 8 for 74 rushing).

The Cards displayed excellent blocking and defense in the first half. Center Carter Shuldes, a reserve as a junior, blocked well and delivered the ball to Hahn, seven yards back, without a hitch. Hahn completed 15 passes the first half, six of them to 6-foot-5 wideout Austin Grove for 97 yards.  

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Rand Middleton

Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 

(320) 214-4334
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