Willmar football Week 5 preview
The battle of the Birds isn't all that riveting this fall with both teams 1-3. However, each team is feeling better about their play this week. Willmar is coming off a one-point loss to the defending state champions Rocori (Class 4A) while the Cardinals from Douglas County picked up their win Saturday afternoon at homecoming where they beat St. Cloud Apollo 21-7. The Cardinals have two common opponents: Alex lost to Rocori 43-0 in Week 2 and to Fergus Falls 48-35 in Week 3. Willmar lost one-point games to both. With a size-large offensive line, Alex favors the run. Against Fergus, sophomore Jake Bear and junior Mitchell Peck each ran for over 100 yards. Last week, Alexandria took advantage of five Apollo turnovers.
These Cardinals' three losses are by a total of 9 points to teams with combined record of 9-1 in CLC contests. But Willmar players and coaches say they are tired or moral victories. Afterall, this was a team expected to challenge for the title. Instead they are buried with Sauk Rapids and Apollo at the very bottom. So what does head coach Jon Konold have to say? "Our kids are playing better overall. We're still making mistakes. Our kids gained a lot of confidence last week. We've got great kids; now we've just got to find a way to win."
Despite the final score (22-21 Rocori), that was a terrific battle in Cold Spring, one that will be long remembered by all who fought. Willmar made the Spartans pay for a failed fake punt at the end of the first half; the Cards drove 50 yards to score on an Alex Grove keeper after each head coach took a timeout with one second left. Willmar kept Spartan QB Mac Mueller contained most of the time by forcing him to run laterally when he couldn't find a receiver. Defensive ends Cole Hagen (2 sacks) and Joey Lee (2 TFL) each had big games. A harsh wind kept Willmar pinned inside its own 45 the entire fourth quarter; with little to profit from a punt, the Cards twice failed on fourth-and-one and the defense had to deliver again. They held the Rocori offense, which averaged 6 TDs per game coming in, scoreless the second half -- until the final :04. Willmar can look to unleash its offense this week; Alex has given up some long-yardage touchdowns (6 over 20 yards vs. Fergus). Alexandria will try to minimize defensive liability by controlling the ball.
St. Cloud Tech's Jacob Peterson ran for 188 yards and 2 scores as the Tigers thumped Sauk Rapids 28-6 last week. Sartell QB Parker Hagen passed for 122 yards and Erik McAfee ran for 103 yards in Sartell's 27-8 win at Grand Rapids. At Brainerd, the Warriors scored 28 fourth-quarter points to overcome a 17-12 deficit and beat Bemidji 40-23 with Connor Gessell rushing for 163 yards.