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Prep football: Willmar Week 6 preview

Last Week: St. Cloud Apollo 31, Fergus Falls 12; Willmar 55, Alexandria 21

Last Time: Willmar 21, St. Cloud Apollo 20 (2011)

Apollo overview

The Eagles are flying high again under Justin Skaalerud, a 2000 Willmar graduate who played LB/TE linebacker for the Cardinals and head coach Ken Heitzman, now a Cardinals’ line coach. Skaalerud’s first two teams went 1-12 in CLC play but pulled up to 3-4 last year and this season is off to the Eagles’ best start since 1995. QB Ben Alvord is a sturdy 6-foot-2, 210- pound junior who also starts at outside linebacker. After taking over at the halfway point of the 2011 season, Alvord threw for 1,244 yards and 13 TDs in 2012. He’s putting up big numbers again; last week he tossed for 228 yards and a score against the Otters. Speedy WR Neil Teigen caught 35 passes as a junior and is a favorite target again. He had TD catches last week of 37 and 23 yards. Teigen and Alvord are two of five Eagles who are third-year starters.  Observes Willmar head coach Jon Konold: “Apollo will split five receivers without a running back; Alvord isn’t especially elusive, he’s just hard to bring down.”  The Eagles picked off Fergus five times; Drew Pearson also had a TD catch.

Willmar overview

The Cardinal offense continues to hum along averaging 47 points per victory. The 55 points at Citizen Field (in its last year with a new Alex high school on the horizon) were the most scored by Willmar since a 55-20 win at Little Falls in 1996. The 2000 Cards scored 54 vs. Apollo and the ’58 team put up 54 vs. Litchfield. The all-time record found in the Cardinal archives is an 83-0 win over Litchfield on Nov. 11, 1930, a season in which the WHS allowed only one score (a 7-0 loss to the Morris Aggies) on Oct. 10. The offense is putting up 433 yards per game. The backs and receivers get the glory but the O-line provides the fury. This week, coach Jon Konold singled out junior left guard Alex Khalil (5-foot-9, 225), the squad’s “Lineman of the Week,” for his consistent effort each game. He combines strength and size with knowledge of the blocking schemes. Also, cited for another good game is junior safety Travis Deegan, a second-year starter with 27 stops, a sack and a fumble recovery. He’s an aggressive tackler who plays on all special teams. He’s part of a first-team defense that has allowed only one TD during the team’s three-game win streak.

The schedule

St. Cloud Tech, Apollo and Willmar have identical records (2-0 CLC South, 4-1 overall). Each has lost to Brainerd, the Tigers last week 7-0, though holding the edge in offense 267-169. Willmar is at Rocori next week then home on Oct. 16 for Tech. Apollo hosts Tech next week and finishes at Sartell. The big battle in the North this week is Bemidji (2-0, 5-0) at Brainerd (2-0, 5-0) at the Warriors’ Saturday homecoming.