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Prep Football: Lakers clip Cards

Detroit Lakes players celebrate their 41-40 win over Willmar in a Section 8AAAA quarterfinal at Hodapp Field. Curt Hogg / Tribune

WILLMAR — Standout wide receiver Noah Slagter rose up over a pair of Detroit Lakes defensive backs as the fate of Willmar's season spiraled toward the end zone. With all eyes at Hodapp Field pinned intently, the Cardinals were one play away from euphorically completing a fourth-quarter comeback over the Lakers in a Section 8AAAA quarterfinal.

Either that, or seeing their season come to a sudden conclusion.

The pass—and the Cardinals' playoff aspirations—was broken up.

A sea of white jerseys from the visiting sideline stormed the field in jubilation as the clock read all zeroes in the fourth quarter.

On either side of that: Detroit Lakes 41, Willmar 40.

Drey Dirksen threw for 360 yards and four touchdowns, but the No. 3 Cardinals held just one short-lived lead in the high-scoring affair with the No. 6 Lakers.

Willmar had an opportunity to grab its second advantage of the night with just under two minutes to play in the fourth quarter after Ethan Roux's two-yard touchdown run cut the deficit to 41-40. The two-point conversion attempt, however, sailed incomplete for wide receiver Caleb Ditmarson, leaving Willmar clinging to slim hopes for a comeback.

Dirksen nearly produced just that.

The junior quarterback took the ball at his own 10-yard line with 75 seconds on the clock, no timeouts in hand and needing a score to advance. A series of passes and a heads-up lateral to running back Caleb Owens to preserve time brought the ball inside the Lakers' 30-yard line.

Following a defensive pass interference that moved the drive into the red zone, the Cardinals had three cracks at the game-winning touchdown. Ditmarson nearly brought in a leaping catch in traffic on the first try and Dirksen was tackled inbounds on the second, forcing Willmar to clock the ball with four seconds left.

Dirksen then looked for his top target in Slagter, who had torched Detroit Lakes for 147 yards and two touchdowns on the game, but to no avail.

On one side, silence. On the other, glee.

The loss marked Willmar's first quarterfinal playoff exit since 2014 after reaching the section final each of the last two seasons.

While it was the aerial attack that was working for the Cardinals, the Lakers relied heavily on an option rushing game to grind down the hosts.

Quarterback Jackson Haire executed the offensive nearly flawlessly, rushing for a game-high 120 yards and three touchdowns on 19 carries.

As a team, Detroit Lakes toted the rock 56 times for 305 yards, with all six of its touchdowns coming on the ground.

The Lakers made an early statement that they were not going to be a walk in the park despite being the section's lowest-seeded team. After forcing a three-and-out on Willmar's first possession, Haire punched across a 20-yard score to go ahead 7-0.

Detroit Lakes recovered the ensuing kickoff as the bouncing ball appeared to have a mind of its own and Isaac Thompson's 17-yard touchdown run made it a 14-0 lead.

Dirksen ran for a three-yard score and found Ditmarson and Slagter for touchdown passes to cut the lead to 20-18 at halftime. Ditmarson's second score of the night gave the Cardinals a 26-20 lead in the third quarter on a 30-yard pass from Dirksen, but the Lakers reciprocated on their next possession to reclaim an advantage they wouldn't relinquish.

Detroit Lakes 41, Willmar 40

Detroit Lakes (3-5) 14 6 8 14 — 41

Willmar (4-5) 12 6 8 14 — 40

Scoring Plays

D — Jackson Haire 20 run (kick good)

D — Isaac Thompson 17 run (kick good)

W — Drey Dirksen 3 run (conversion failed)

W — Dirksen 4 pass to Slagter (conversion failed)

D — Haire 1 run (kick blocked)

W — Caleb Ditmarson 16 pass from Dirksen (conversion failed)

W — Ditmarson 30 pass from Dirksen (Jake Evans pass from Dirksen)

D — Haire 6 run (Haire run)

D — Nordmark 1 run (kick good)

W — Slagter 7 pass from Dirksen (Ditmarson pass from Dirksen)

D — Gabe Hanninen 12 run (conversion failed)

W — Ethan Roux 2 run (pass failed)

Detroit Lakes

First downs: 21 ... Penalties: 4-25 ... Rushing (Individual and team): Jackson Haire 19-120, Isaac Thompson 24-109, Gabe Hanninen 3-19, 56-305 ... Passing (Individual and team): Haire 4-6-94-0, Jacob Bettcher 1-1-32-0. 5-7-126-0 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Tanner Doppler 3-71, Eli Brooks 1-49, 5-126 ... Interceptions: None ... Fumble recoveries: B Boomgaarden 1... Tackles (solo-assist): Doppler 7-6, Tristan Rader 4-3 ... QB sacks: N/A


First downs: 25 ... Penalties: 5-40 ... Rushing (Individual and team): Drey Dirksen 18-79, Ethan Roux 9-30, Caleb Owens 5-17. 32-126 ... Passing (Individual and team): Dirksen 25-39-360-0. 25-39-360-0 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Noah Slagter 9-147, Caleb Ditmarson 5-82, Jake Evans 5-70, Nick Prokosch 5-58, Caleb Owens 1-9. 25-360 ... Interceptions: None ... Fumble recoveries: None ... Tackles (solo-assist): Prokosch 3-10, Matt Bengston 3-2, Bryce Erickson 2-10, Roux 1-5, Slagter 1-5, Andrew Reigstad 1-14, Hamza Mohamed 1-10, Gibran Moreno 1-4 ... QB sacks: Prokosch 1

Curt Hogg

Curt Hogg is a sports reporter at the West Central Tribune in Willmar, Minnesota. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 2016. 

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