Cardinals face dynasty
Last time: 1989--Willmar 19, Hutchinson 13, OT What's at stake? The winner advances to play at No. 1 seed Marshall at 7 p.m. Saturday in the semifinal round. No. 6 New Ulm at No. 3 Mankato East winner advances to No. 2 Mankato West. Around the Ce...
Last time: 1989--Willmar 19, Hutchinson 13, OT
What's at stake?
The winner advances to play at No. 1 seed Marshall at 7 p.m. Saturday in the semifinal round. No. 6 New Ulm at No. 3 Mankato East winner advances to No. 2 Mankato West.
Around the Central Lakes
Brainerd (4-2, 6-2) handed Sartell (6-1, 7-1) its first loss, 19-15, but the Sabres still rank as the conference champs. Alexandria finished 5-1 by beating Fergus Falls, 16-6. Because of the scheduling imbalance created by the loop's agreement to schedule independents Moorhead and Bemidji, Alexandria played one fewer CLC game. Head-to-head, Sartell walloped Alexandria 45-12 in Week 4, but the teams could meet again in the Section 8AAAA final. Willmar, Rocori and Sauk Rapids finished in a three-way tie for fifth, each at 4-3.
The Hutchinson file
Hutchinson has won nine straight section titles in Class AAAA. Last year, its first in this section, Andy Rostberg's Tigers beat Mankato East for the title and went on to reach the state semifinals, along with two other Missota Conference squads, Holy Angels and New Prague. The Tigers have won two in a row, beating Prior Lake 14-7 and Shakopee 34-0, allowing 11 rushing yards in the later. Three of the Tigers' losses were to teams presently rated: Glencoe-Silver Lake (2nd in Class AAA), New Prague (8th in Class AAAA) and Farmington (4th in Class AAAAA). The Tigers have been committed to the run, tapping the quickness of tailback Cory Shufelt and the bursts of fullback Brian Renkes, also the team's leading tackler. When quarterback Josh Wendland does throw, his favorite target has been Brady Hendricks.
What Willmar coach Ken Heitzman said
Injury update: "(Quarterback) Michael Dunham looks to be 75 percent and possibly could start. (Linebacker) Trent Molacek is being evaluated again (today) and we're hoping he can play. He suffered a mild concussion (at Moorhead). (Defensive tackle) Adam Schow (ankle) is ready to go."
On last week's loss to Spuds: "It's hard to beat a good team with so many turnovers, but the defense did a good job. We made a run in the third quarter, but we had one more turnover and Moorhead turned it into a touchdown."
On Hutchinson: "They certainly seem to prefer to run with the way they set up with double tight ends. They come right at you. It should be quite a battle between two evenly-matched teams. The kids are real excited to have an opportunity to make a run in the playoffs."
It's been 17 years since the Cardinals and the Tigers played for real, but they do know each other from the annual scrimmage at Litchfield. Willmar won two of three in a three-game set from 1987-89. The Cardinals, under head coach Deryl Ramey, were a combined 28-5 those years and reached the state quarterfinals in '87 and again '88, Heitzman's first year here.
The bottom line
Forget the seeding and home-field; it will be an upset if Willmar beats this postseason denizen (The Tigers haven't lost a section game since 1996). And it would surely help to have everyone healthy, or near so. Hutchinson plays a tough schedule but so does Willmar, especially the last three games, so knocking heads with this section kingpin will be nothing knew.
-- Rand Middleton