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Willmar wins wild opener

ST. CLOUD -- The Willmar Cardinals came from behind late in the fourth quarter to overtake St. Cloud Apollo 30-26 in the Central Lakes Conference football Friday.

Quarterback Michael Dunham zigzagged 34 yards for the winning score with under five minutes left.

The season opener had a little of everything. A 71-yard pass play, an 88-yard kick-off return for six points by Willmar's Andy Boersma, a 45-yard field goal by Willmar's Jordan Smith and finally a clutch defensive stand by the Cardinals.

The two teams combined for 562 yards of offense and 22 first downs.

The Eagles made a quick liftoff. On the third play from scrimmage, quarterback Mitch Bidleman connected with halfback Luke Skay for a 71-yard TD. But Willmar came right back with Michael Dunham directing a 10-play, 71-yard drive for the tying score on Boersma's eight-yard run and the conversion kick by Jordan Smith.

Boersma carried six times for 27 yards and Dunham completed three passes, including 13 yards to Ryan Degree to the Apollo 15.

Apollo went on a 12-play march before the end of the quarter with Bidleman skirting end for the final two yards.

Willmar tied it on a short drive following a 58-yard punt by Smith and a defensive stop. Smith grabbed a 14-yard pass from Dunham to complete the 35-yard drive.

Boersma took the second-half kickoff 88 yards to the end zone for Willmar's first lead. Apollo tied it on a 15-yard run Nick Spoden, but Smith booted a 45-yard field goal on the still night to put Willmar up 23-20 at the third-quarter break.

Apollo went back up at 6:47 of the fourth quarter. Skay did the leg work on a long drive but it was Bidleman and 6-6, 235-pound tight end Seth Noreen hooking up for the touchdown.

Willmar blocked the kick a second straight time and it stayed 26-23.

The Cardinals answered with a long march. Dunham scrambled 34 yards for the touchdown and 30-26 lead after Smith's kick with four minutes left. The key play was a 19-yard pass to fullback Levi Brown for a first down at the Apollo 36.

Willmar stopped the Eagles this time with linebacker Todd Lippert and tackle Adam Schow making big stops. Willmar ran out the last two minutes.

Boersma, operating from the tailback spot which is a new position for him after playing quarterback and wide receiver as a junior, gained 63 yards in 18 carries. Smith, a sophomore who placed kicked as a freshman, had an impressive debut as a position player. He caught four passes for 43 yards, plus that one punt for 58 yards and the 45-yard field goal.

While Willmar did its best to full platoon, Apollo had half-dozen players going both ways. Skay and Matt Hickman were both quality players for coach Jon Benson, a native of Atwater in his third year at the Eagles' helm. Hickman had an interception and ran for 56 yards in six tries. Skay, who was injured the first game of his junior season and never returned, picked up 75 yards on the ground to go with his 71-yard pass reception.

Linebacker Justin Schwieger was among the leaders on the Willmar defense.

Willmar won for the second straight year at Michie Field after losing to Apollo at Hodapp Field in 2004.

The win ended a six-game Willmar losing streak and a five-game CLC skid. Willmar's last win was a year ago Sept. 16, a 34-31 in Willmar against Little Falls. Boersma scored the deciding touchdown in overtime. Willmar is at home Friday to play The Flyers.

Willmar 30, SC Apollo 26

Willmar (1-0, 1-0) 7 7 9 7-- 30

SC Apollo (0-1, 0-1) 14 0 6 6-- 23

Apo - Luke Skay 71 pass from Mitch Bidleman (Matt Stock kick)

Wil - Andy Boersma 8 run (Jordan Smith kick)

Apo - Bidleman 2 run (Stock kick)

Wil - Smith 14 pass from Mike Dunham (kick failed)

Wil - Boersma 88 kick return (Stock kick)

Apo - Spoden 15 run (kick block)

Wil - Smith 45 field goal

Apo - Seth Noreen 18 pass from Bidleman (kick blocked)

Wil - Dunham 34 run (Smith kick)


Team statistics

First downs: 10 ... Rushing: 39-128 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 9-13-92-1 ... Fumbles lost: 2 ... Penalties: 1-5

Individual statistics

Rushing: Mike Dunham 11-46, Andy Boersma 18-63, Levi Brown 10-19, Jon Leaks 1-(-6) .... Passing: Dunham 9-13-92-2 .... Receiving: Jordan Smith 4-43, Ryan Degree 2-22, Levi Brown 1-19, Andy Boersma 1-7, Jon Leaks 1-2 .... Punting: Jordan Smith 1-58 .... Interceptions: Brett Blomquist 1 .... Fumble recoveries: Levi Brown 1 .... Tackles (solo-assist): not available ... QB sacks: not available

St. Cloud Apollo

Team statistics

First downs: 12 ... Rushing: 45-218 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 5-10-129-1 ... Fumbles lost: 1 ... Penalties: 5-35

Individual statistics

Rushing: Luke Skay 10-75, Matt Hickman 6-56, Patrick Dolan 7-26, Spoden 12-11, Mitch Bidleman 10-52 .... Passing: Mitch Bidleman 5-10-129-1 .... Receiving: Seth Noreen 2-39, Spoden 2-9, Skay 1-71 .... Punting: Noreen 4-30 .... Interceptions: Hickman, Collin Johnson .... Fumble recoveries: Johnson, Alex Gill