Covers Willmar and area high schools and Ridgewater College, plus amateur baseball, stock car racing and fitness events in summer. Writes weekly column since 1980. Began working in radio and at weekly newspaper in Munising, Michigan, in 1972. Started parttime at West Central Daily Tribune Sept. 1974. Fulltime beginning Feb. 1979. Married to Tribune news clerk Donna (Miller) Middleton, formerly of Kerkhoven. 2 grown children.
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WILLMAR -- A full moon, a full house and a team in full bloom were all on display Friday at Hodapp Field for Willmar's homecoming. The Cardinals drained the oil from the Sauk Rapids offense and piled up yards with the ball to even their record at 2-2 with a 21-0 victory over the Storm on a near-perfect night after a week of rain. Senior linebacker Nathanial Swoyer was delighted by the Cardinal whitewash. "We shut down the run and forced them to pass and our cornerbacks wouldn't let them have it." The Storm (2-2) managed just 44 net rushing yards, much of that coming from the second string
FERGUS FALLS OVERVIEW: The Spartans and Ridgewater have this in common: each team's single win came against the winless Vermilion Ironmen. Behind a 141-yard game by running back Eric Brown, Fergus won at Ely 30-20 last Saturday. Brown, a 200-pound sophomore out of St. Paul Arlington, is the leading rusher in the MCAC South, averaging 5.0 yards over 84 carries. He is a double-threat, often taking a direct snap from center which has allowed him to pass for 183 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
The Willmar Cardinal Pride Hall of Fame inductees for 2010 are Kenny Johnson (Class of 1947) and Jon Habben ('75) for 2010. They'll be introduced at halftime of Friday's homecoming football game against Sauk Rapids. Habben was among the defensive leaders on the only Cardinal football team to reach a state championship game. That was in 1974. He also competed in three state swimming meets. Habben lives in Avon, not far from St. John's University where he was an outstanding four-time letterwinner in swimming. The Johnnies twice selected him their MVP.
Week 4 Sauk Rapids (2-1) at Willmar (1-2) Friday at Hodapp Field, 7 p.m. A LOOK AT SAUK RAPIDS: There's evidence that Willmar will have its hands full at homecoming. The Storm's loss was 12-6 in triple overtime on a rainy night to Sartell, which played in the Class AAAA championship game last fall.
WILLMAR -- The newly appointed co-coaches of the Cardinal varsity wrestling program have proved already that they can work in harmony. Justin Brown and Ed Oehlers have teamed up the past four years to guide the freshman football team. Last week, the administration determined they would be a good fit for wrestling, too. Brown came to Willmar as an elementary teacher in 2004 while Oehlers has taught physical education classes here since 2007.
RIDGEWATER OVERVIEW: Ridgewater demonstrated competence running the ball last week -- especially in the first half -- and the ability to make big plays through the air. Quarterback Jackson Illies threw two touchdown passes and backup signal-caller Colton Otto threw another in a 32-6 victory over winless Vermilion. Looking ahead to Northland, coach Rob Baumgarn stated: "This is a chance to get to .500. I would think our sophomores on defense would remember giving up 400 yards rushing last year. Northland started slow, but it takes time for the new players to learn the wing-T.
A LOOK AT WILLMAR: This much is known about Willmar after two games: the Cardinals can move the ball in the air and on the ground with equal authority. Now all that's needed is to realize those capabilities in the same game. The Cardinals showed a well-oiled aerial game in the first half at Alexandria, but went scoreless the second half in a 22-21 loss. Last Friday, Willmar uncorked a flashy running game in the second half after Brainerd chewed the Cardinals up in the first half. "It will be a great challenge up there," said head coach Jon Konold.
The 1946 football team at Willmar High School won its first six games to claim the West Central Conference crown, but lost the final game at Redwood Falls, 2-0, on a blocked punt that went for a safety. A fourth player on that team goes into the Cardinal Pride Hall of Fame this month with the induction of Kenny Johnson, the squad's left halfback and linebacker. Those were single-wing days, a formation that would be overtaken in the 1950s by the T-formation which in turn gave way to the I, veer, the shotgun spread and other formations. Allan Backlund, a junior in 1946, would snap the ball to