Willmar throws Apollo for a loop

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Cardinals sent a message to the Central Lakes Conference Friday night before upwards of 1,000 fans at Hodapp Field -- "We got (air) mail."...

WILLMAR -- The Willmar Cardinals sent a message to the Central Lakes Conference Friday night before upwards of 1,000 fans at Hodapp Field -- "We got (air) mail."

Senior quarterback Michael Dunham threw for four touchdowns and 235 yards, all in the first half, and Willmar blunted the St. Cloud Apollo running game in the red zone to collect a 27-13 victory to open the season.

"That Dunham lived up to billing," said St. Cloud Apollo head coach Jon Benson, an Atwater native who played junior college football on this field. "If those receivers stay healthy, that attack can be effective in the Central Lakes."

Willmar led 27-13 at halftime and then turned the game over to its defense. The score held.

Dunham's debut as a third-year-starter would get Player-of-the-Game raves any night, but for the spectacular performance of junior wide receiver and safety Jordan Smith.


Smith scored Willmar's first touchdown on a tipped pass and run covering 66 yards. He intercepted two passes, made eight solo tackles, punted for a 37.7 average, kicked off to the enemy end zone, booted three extra points (the fourth was blocked) and made several one-handed catches among his six catches for 150 yards.

"No. 6," said Willmar coach Ken Heitzman when asked what he'd single out in an entertaining game on a 70-degree night. "He's a phenomenal athlete. We knew that but to see it out there on the field through four quarters is something."

Dunham spread the ball around to his three receivers, who each had the height advantage on the Apollo secondary.

Casey Sussenguth, a 6-5 flanker, hooked four for 44 yards and a touchdown in the corner of the end zone with seven seconds left in the first half. Ryan DeGree, a 6-4 tight end, caught two short touchdown passes among his four hookups totaling 42 yards.

The game's 40 points were all scored in the first half. Willmar scored twice in the last 37 seconds of the half, the second TD set up by a Smith interception followed by a acrobatic 40-yard sideline catch.

Apollo would log 331 yards in 67 rushes for the game but Willmar's defense made several impressive stands in the second half. Willmar didn't make a first down in the second half.

"Yeah, it got a little tiring out there," said nose guard Noel Anderson. "But we did a nice job stopping the run when we had to."

Ben Lippert, a guard and linebacker, said the defense started slow but picked it up in the second half by making adjustments to the Apollo sweep.


Despite some pre-game hype, he admitted he was surprised with the efficiency of the air attack.

"That was amazing," he said. "Four TDs in the first half."

Heitzman said the all-knew offensive line of tackles Ryan Filipek and Patrick Hand, guards Lippert/Steven Erickson and Joe Wetterling and alternating centers Jake Morris and Scott Skaalerud deserve a lot of credit for protecting Dunham, who suffered one sack.

Fullback Travis Scepanika rushed 24 times for 121 yards to lead Apollo but quarterback Mitch Bidleman, a tough runner, was able to complete only one pass in 12 attempts.

Willmar 27, SC Apollo 13

SC Apollo 7 6 0 0 -- 13

Willmar 7 20 0 0 -- 27

Apo - James Iverson 4 run (Brandon Kellen kick), 5:27, 1st quarter


Wil - Jordan Smith 66 pass from Dunham (Smith kick), 3:57, 1st quarter

Wil - Ryan DeGree 6 pass from Dunham (Smith kick) 6:34 2nd quarter

Apo - Travis Scepaniak 5 run (pass fail), 2:49, 2nd quarter

Wil - DeGree 2 pass from Dunham (Smith kick), 0:36, 2nd quarter

Wil - Casey Sussenguth 13 pass Dunham (kick blocked), :07, 2nd quarter

St. Cloud Apollo

Team statistics

First downs: 20 ... Rushing: 67-331 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 1-12-16-2 ... Fumbles lost: 0 ... Penalties: 10-83


Individual statistics

Rushing: James Iverson 12-91, Mike Iverson 9-71, Travis Scepaniak 24-121, Mitch Bidleman 6-47 ... Passing: Bidleman 1-12-16-2 ... Receiving: J. Iverson 1-16 ... Punting: Nick Voit 4-20.0 ... Interceptions: Travis Colgrove.... Fumble recoveries: Pat Redmond


Team statistics

First downs: 16 ... Rushing: 33-69 ... Passing (com-att-yds-int.): 13-20-235-1 ... Fumbles lost: 2 ... Penalties: 3-15

Individual statistics

Rushing: Isaiah Streed 9-19, Stevin Carlson 6-17, Brandon Jahnke 6-10, Michael Dunham 8-23 ... Passing: Dunham 13-20-235-1 ... Receiving: Jordan Smith 5-149, Casey Sussenguth 4-44, Ryan DeGree 4-42 ... Punting: Smith 3-37.7 ... Interceptions: Smith 2 ... Fumble recoveries: none ... Tackles (solo-assist): Joel Schendel 1-6, Jordan Smith 9-3, Alex Saunders 2-3, Logan Birkland 1-3, Stevin Carlson 2-0, Adam Lindblad 2-3, Josh Mead 1-7, Rene Vallejo 3-5, Ben Lippert 3-6, Chris Duscher 1-2, Justin Carlson 3-3, Noel Anderson 0-6 ... QB sacks: Lippert 1

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