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Prep football: Cards upset Sartell 28-21

SARTELL -- Something happened.

Looking very much like they were on the road to their fourth Central Lakes loss in five games, the Willmar Cardinals scored three straight second-half touchdowns to upend Sartell 28-21 on Friday night.

It was the Cardinals first win on the road after one-point losses at Fergus Falls and Cold Spring.

Maybe, the boys were just tired of losing winnable games.

All the sudden, the running attack began mowing down the Sartell defenders and the Cardinals defense rose up to force one Sabre punt and then another.

The Sabres, who came in with a 5-1 record, took a 21-7 lead early in the third quarter. After stopping Willmar on downs at the Sabres' 25 following Chris Cunningham's long runback with the second-half kickoff, Sartell quarterback Patrick Hagen hit his favorite target, Patrick Fischer, on a 74-yard touchdown play.

It was looking like Willmar would head to Sauk Rapids on Wednesday with a two-game losing streak and little chance of a home game to start the post-season.

The Willmar offense had driven 95 yards in 12 plays to tie the game 7-7 early in the second quarter on a 19-yard keeper by quarterback Alex Grove. But later the Cardinals had first-and-goal at the Sartell 5 with two minutes left in the first half and came up empty.

Hagen drove the Sabres' 80 yards in 75 seconds to go up 14-7 at half, then threw to Fischer for a 21-7 lead the first time he touched the ball in the second half.

Two minutes were gone in the second half when the momentum began to shift.

Grove drove the team downfield, throwing to Patrick Courtney 28 yards to inside the five, then took the ball the final four yards himself and it was 21-14.

Willmar clamped down on the Sabres' offense, especially star running back Erik McAfee, who finished with 70 yards in 22 snaps. Getting the ball back and the north wind in its sails, Grove carried 12 yards to the five and Zech Streed bulled the final three yards to tie the game 21-21 in the fourth.

After the defense made another stop, Austin Rambow snagged a tipped pass at the Sabres 31. On the next play, Streed busted off tackle 32 yards for Willmar's first lead, 27-21. Courtney's fourth conversion kick made it 28-21 with 7:31 left.

Sartell was far from finished. The Sabres came from two scores back last week in the fourth quarter to tip St. Cloud Tech 21-20. The Sabres converted on fourth down three times going for the tying score this time but Willmar finally held at the Cardinals 23 on downs with 1:19 left.

The win should help No. 5 Willmar overtake No. 4 Buffalo Section 6-5A QRF. The Bison beat winless Duluth Denfeld 48-8 last night while No. 6 Elk River lost to Osseo 36-10.

Sauk Rapids (1-6) lost to Bemidji 41-20.

Willmar back Michael Heitzman picked up 95 yards in 17 carries before getting banged up in the second half. Grove through for169 yards and had his best rushing night (12-85). Streed, Buzzy Tollefson, Tyler Stegeman, Jordan Geurtz and Cass Herzog, who deflected Hagen's fourth-down pass on the last drive, paced a defense that refused to loose.

Willmar 28, Sartell 21

Willmar (2-3, 3-4) 0 7 7 14 -- 28

Sartell (3-2, 5-2) 7 7 7 0 -- 21

Sar -Patrick Fischer 4 pass from Parker Hagen ( Cody Partch kick)

Wil - Alex Grove 19 run (Patrick Courtney kick

Sar - Zach Schoonmaker 32 pass from Hagen (Partch kick)

Sar - Fischer 74 pass from Hagen (Partch kick)

Wil - Grove 4 run (Courtney kick)

Wil - Zech Streed 3 run (Courtney kick)

Wil - Streed 32 run (Courtney kick)


Team statistics

First downs: 17 ... Rushing: 32-215 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 14-20-169-1 ... Fumbles lost: 0... Penalties: 9-67

Individual statistics

Rushing: Alex Grove 12-85, Michael Heitzman 17-95, Zech Streed 3-35 ... Passing: Grove 14-20-169-1 ... Receiving: Heitzman 1-18, Austin Rambow 4-28, Patrick Courtney 3-66, Brandon Christensen 2-17, Austin Grove 2-35 Punting: Streed 2-35.0 ... Interceptions: none ... Fumble recoveries: none ... Tackles (solo-assist): Hunter Mottinger 1-1, Ben Muller 1-1, Patrick Courtney 3-2, Zech Streed 4-2, Tyler Stegeman 7-1, Jordan Geurtz 2-2, Trey Tollefson 4-6, Josh Kelly 1-2, Cole Hagen 1-1, Joey Lee 2-1, Leon Richards 1-1, Cass Herzog 2-0, Travis Deegan 1-1 ... QB sacks: Hagen 1, Streed 2 ... Tackles for loss: Geurtz 3, Stegeman 2 ... Pass break-ups: Streed, Courtney, Stegeman, Hagen, Herzog


Team statistics

First downs: 12... Rushing: 35-91 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 14-30-214-0 ... Fumbles lost: 0 ... Penalties: 1-10

Individual statistics

Rushing: Erik McAfee 22-70, Patrick Hagen 6-(-14), Sam Neeser 3-14m Jake Wenzel 1-6, Zach Schoonmaker 2-10, Matt Worzala 1-1... Passing: Patrick Hagen 14-30-214-0 ... Receiving: Patrick Fischer 5-108, Zach Schoonmaker 1-32, McAfee 5-31, Wenzel 2-30 ... Punting: Cody Partch ... Interceptions: Schoonmaker ...

Rand Middleton
Tribune photographer/videographer. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime news/sports beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children. 
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