The Warriors graduated 30 seniors from a team that went all the way to the 5A Prep Bowl final. Big deal! There are 30 seniors on this fall’s roster on a total take of 102 players grades 10-12. Coach Ron Stolski might have a bit of trouble replacing the speed of Logan Davis and Cole Smith, among the top sprinters in CLC track last spring, but the early results are promising. The Blue Wave debuted on their new manufactured turf with a 30-6 win against Fergus Falls. Three different QBs threw for 156 yards and Mitch Rahn ran for 63 yards and 3 short TDs as the home team outgained the Otters 387 yards to 116. The offense did falter with 8 penalties, reflecting perhaps the varsity inexperience and rotating QBs. But the Brainerd trademark is typically swiftness both offense and defense, expert execution and few giveaways or easy scores allowed. Every point vs. Brainerd is hard-earned.
Now or never
That may sound a little strong, but when it comes to beating Brainerd the window may open only once per decade. The Cardinals stopped the Warriors in 1992 41-18 and the next year, at Adamson, 20-15 (tying Brainerd for the CLC title) and 2000 by a 14-7 score, also at Adamson. Willmar played Brainerd tough at Hodapp in Week 2 last fall losing 21-7. As understudies, the juniors and seniors classes each had good success facing their counterparts as ninth- and 10th-graders. But the Cardinals now must overcome the cumulative effect of Brainerd’s greater numbers. Willmar’s talent and training alone won’t be enough to win this one; they will need to reach back for something more if they want to be a team to be remembered.
Coach Jon Konold: “With an eight-game schedule every Friday night is special and a great experience. These kids love to compete; they love to play. Last year against Brainerd, our offense was young going against a very good defense. This year we want to run the ball more effectively with our returning backs and linemen while maintaining an efficient passing game. You have to be pleased winning 41-6 and playing a lot of kids the first time out.”
Opening night: Willmar rushed for 312 yards and passed for 123, without a turnover. Like Brainerd, the Cards absorbed 12 penalties in the curtainraiser. Singled out for accolades in Week 1 are senior right tackle Joel Engel and junior safety Colten Carlson. Engel created daylight for the backs at the line and pulling out showed his athleticism with key downfield blocks. Carlson, a starting OLB as a sophomore, came up to make stops at the line of scrimmage, totaling six tackles.