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Willmar tackled Marshall ball carriers by committee most of the night. Dragging down the Tigers' Andrew Thomas are from left, Nathan Esboldt (9), Taylor Filipek (12), Nathaniel Swoyer (40) and John Schlegel (58) Tuesday night at Hodapp Field in Willmar. Tribune photo by Rand Middleton

Willmar tops Marshall for first home section win in 6 years

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WILLMAR -- Nothing like playoff football -- though the Willmar Cardinals haven't had much to celebrate this century.

Until last night.

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The Cardinals took a slam-bang, back-and-forth, suspenseful Section 2AAAA opener from the Marshall Tigers 34-28.

"This is awesome," said quarterback Mark Dunham in the joyful aftermath. "To win a playoff game at home. It's been a long time."

Dunham threw two touchdown passes to junior wide receiver Ryan Lawler and one to Taylor Filipek, and fullback Nathaniel Swoyer burrowed for two more scores while also having a standout game at linebacker.

The section win Tuesday night in front of about 650 fans, was only the second in nine seasons for Willmar which joined this section in 2001. The other win, also at home, was against Worthington, 34-21, in the 2003 quarterfinals.

The No. 3-seeded Cardinals (5-4) go to No. 2 Hutchinson, which leveled new Ulm 55-13. The game is set for 2 p.m. Saturday.

Everything went Willmar's way the game's first 21 minutes. Marshall fumbled away the opening kickoff.

Dunham immediately hit Filipek for 25 yards to set up a Swoyer TD burst with the game just 18 seconds old.

Dunham and Filipek teamed up again for two big plays and Dunham carried for 24 yards in two attempts to set up Swoyer again from the one. Mitch Fader kicked the first of four straight conversions for a 13-0 lead.

It was 20-0 after an improbable 33-yard TD catch by Lawler on a ball that ricocheted off the knee of wide receiver Jeremy Schendel and Lawler picked off in full stride at the Marshall 15.

The Tigers could have quit right there. Instead they roared back and scored twice in the last 2:30 of the half. Andrew Larsen, the Marshall quarterback, threw strikes to Skylar Stensrud for a 69 yard score and again to the 6-1 senior for six yards as the half ended.

Willmar (5-4) fumbled away the second half kickoff and the Tigers' marched to another score as 220-pound fullback Brennan Cable carried Willmar tacklers for extra yards.

Marshall (4-5) led 21-20 but Willmar responded with Dunham hitting Filipek for a seven- yard score and Lawler over the middle for a nine-yard TD and a 34-21 lead.

Marshall kept coming and scored again to pull within six of the lead. But the Willmar made some big defensive plays down the stretch and Grant Schow busted off a 25-yard run on fourth down to salt it away with two minutes left.

Lawler, a tight end until this year, caught seven passes for 124 yards. Dunham was 16 of 21 for 237 yards.

"He's improved so much," said Dunham of Lawler. "He had a great game."

Willmar 34, Marshall 28

Marshall 0 14 7 7 -- 28

Willmar 13 7 7 7 -- 34

Wil - Nathaniel Swoyer 1 run (kick fail)

Wil - Swoyer 1 run (Mitch Fader kick)

Wil - Ryan Lawler 33 pass from Mark Dunham (Fader kick)

Mar - Skylar Stensrud 69 pass from Andrew Larsen (Cameron Thompson kick)

Mar - Stensrud 6 pass from Larson (Thompson kick)

Mar - Brennan Cable 15 run (Thompson kick)

Wil - Taylor Filipek 7 pass from Dunham (Fader kick)

Wil - Lawler 9 pass from Dunham (Fader kick)

Mar - Andrew Thomas 1 run (Thompson kick)

Marshall

Team statistics

First downs: 24 ... Rushing: 52-253 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 8-16-161-1 ... Fumbles lost: 1 ... Penalties: 4-20

Individual statistics

Rushing: Andrew Thomas 19-90, Brennan Cable 22-106, Sean Marron 2-10, Beau Bofferding 7-43, Nick Schiavo 2-4 ... Passing: Andrew Larsen 8-16-161-1 ... Receiving: Bofferding 3-40, Skyler Stensrud 3-95, Thomas 1-12, Jacob Novosad 1-14 ... Punting: Matt Felton 1-25 ... Interceptions: none ... Fumble recoveries: 2 ... Tackles (solo-assist): not available ... QB sacks: not available

Willmar

Team statistics

First downs: 20 ... Rushing: 30-141 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 16-21-237-0 ... Fumbles lost: 2 ... Penalties: 2-10

Individual statistics

Rushing: Nathaniel Swoyer 9-24, Grant Schow 12-77, Mark Dunham 7-27, Jeremy Schendel 2-13 ... Passing: Dunham 16-21-237-0 ... Receiving: Taylor Filipek 6-93, Ryan Lawler 7-124, Schow 2-14, Schendel 1-6 ... Punting: Swoyer 1-37 ... Interceptions: Derrick Loiselle 1 ... Fumble recoveries: Zach Cordes 1 ... Tackles (solo-assist): Swoyer 1-14, Coty Milhausen 2-5, Cordes 1-10, Adam Fagerstrom 1-9, Filipek 2-9, Loiselle 1-8, Patrick Schueller 0-14, Jacob Damhof 1-7, Jake Rambow 0-13, ... QB sacks: none

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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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