Cards leave Spuds stunned
WILLMAR -- Singing the school song in jubilation with a Homecoming victory, it was hard to believe Hodapp Field was silent to start the fourth quarter.
WILLMAR - Singing the school song in jubilation with a Homecoming victory, it was hard to believe Hodapp Field was silent to start the fourth quarter.
Homecoming looked disastrous as winless Moorhead held a 32-14 lead with 10 minutes, 49 seconds to play on Friday.
The Cardinals needed a spark.
Zach Morrell provided it.
Alex Wickliff let the fuse sizzle.
And Hanza Mohammed and the defense provided the big bang in a 35-32 come-from-behind win.
"We battled adversity in the first half. Some people might have doubted us," Mohammed said. "But I knew me and my team could do it. We have a great team, great players and great chemistry. I knew at the end of the day we'd come out on top."
Even while down 18 early in the fourth quarter, Willmar figured it could leave Homecoming as victors. It was an ugly win, but it was a win nonetheless.
"Our kids showed grit, they showed heart. They refused to lose," said Cardinals head coach Jon Konold. "We weren't real sharp on offense, but we battled on defense. I think we wore them down."
The visiting Spuds hopped on the board to start with the first of two Trey Feeney-to-Tommy Horan first-half touchdown connections, first from seven yards. Willmar responded late in the first quarter when Alex Wickliff punched in a score from a yard out.
Moorhead (0-5) and Willmar traded scores in the second, with Moran-from-Feeney connecting from 10 yards out, followed by an eight-yard strike from Drey Dirksen to Jake Evans for the Cardinals.
For three quarters, Willmar (4-1) couldn't stop Moorhead running back Riley Schock, who scored on a 1-yard run with one second left in the first half. Schock ran the ball 33 yards for 181 yards.
"To start off, the defense didn't do its jobs," said defensive lineman Kaden Streed, who had two sacks in the game. "At halftime, we got our butts chewed out a little bit in the locker room. We came out kind of mad and were ready to play football."
Schock seemed to clinch victory when he scored his second touchdown of the game from four yards out early in the fourth.
Then came the spark.
Hauling the ball in at the 14-yard-line, Morrell made a couple cuts and sprinted across the field to the end zone, cutting the deficit to 32-20.
"That was my blocks. It was all about the blocks," Morrell said as he received a hug from a teammate. "Without my teammates, I wouldn't have had that."
Konold added, "The stadium was dead. They took it down and scored. And Zach's kick return ignited everything."
With new-found life, the defense forced the Spuds to punt and Willmar returned it to Moorhead's 35-yard-line. In less than two minutes, the Cardinals reached the end zone again with a one-yard Wickliff run for a 32-27 score.
The fuse was still going.
Then came the boom.
Pinned deep in their own territory on the next drive, a botched shotgun snap to Feeney turned into a game of hot potato. Bobbling the ball again while trying to make a play, the errant pigskin found its way into Mohammed's hands for a 22-yard return for a touchdown with 5:56 to play.
In just under five minutes, the Cardinals went from certain doom down 32-14 to a 35-32 lead.
"Coach (Dusty) Carlson was pleading all week, 'Run to the football,' and that's what I did," said Mohammed, who had 10 total tackles. "And good things happened."
The defense had to make just one more big stop. With Moorhead pushed back to a fourth-and-16, Feeney scrambled down the Spuds sidelines, edging closer and closer to the end of the chains. When the whistle blew, Feeney was a yard short from extending the drive.
"We just fixed a couple mistakes and everyone got their assignments corrected," Mohammed said about the defensive turnaround. "We knew we'd be good at the end and we were. We showed a lot of heart."
From there, Willmar killed some clock, Dirksen pinned Moorhead deep in its own territory and the defense broke up any passing attempts to snag the improbable victory.
Next Friday, the Cardinals head to St. Cloud to face Section 8AAAA foe Apollo. The Eagles are at 3-2 after taking a 40-14 loss to Hutchinson on Friday.
Moorhead (0-5) 8 16 0 8 - 32
Willmar (4-1) 8 6 0 21 - 35
M - Tommy Horan 7 pass from Trey Feeney (Riley Schock run)
W - Alex Wickliff 1 run (Caleb Owens pass from Drey Dirksen)
M - Horan 10 pass from Feeney (Schock run)
W - Jake Evans 8 pass from Dirksen (Pass failed)
M - Schock 1 run (Horan pass from Feeney)
M - Schock 4 run (Schock run)
W - Zach Morrell 86 kickoff return (Run failed)
W - Wickliff 1 run (LaBlue Moo kick)
W - Hamza Mohammed 22 fumble recovery (Caleb Owens run)
First downs: 18 ... Penalties: N/A ... Rushing (Individual and team): Riley Schock 33-181, Keenan Wendt 3-11, Anthony Angotti 1-9, Noah Anderson 1-5, Alex Thingvold 1-3, Nathan Zurn 1-2, Trey Feeney 8-1. 48-212... Passing (Individual and team): Feeney 7-25-81-0 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Tommy Horan 4-60, Angotti 1-12, Nick Johnson 1-6, Hudson Hodges 1-3 ... Interceptions: Hodges 1 ... Fumble recoveries: None ... Tackles (solo-assist): Hodges 4-2, Hayden Netland 3-4, Anderson 2-3, Horan 2-2, Tristan Duerr 1-5 ... QB sacks: Duerr 1
First downs: 9 ... Penalties: N/A ... Rushing (Individual and team): Drey Dirksen 10-16, Alex Wickliff 8-16, Ethan Roux 4-13, Caleb Owens 1-3. 23-48 ... Passing (Individual and team): Dirksen 10-20-133-1 ... Receiving (Individual and team): Jake Evans 4-55, Owens 2-40, Ryan Slette 3-30, Roux 1-8 ... Interceptions: None ... Fumble recoveries: Hamza Mohammed 1 ... Tackles (solo-assist): Ty Roelofs 5-7, Ben Hisken 4-6, Mohammed 2-8, Andrew Reigstad 2-7, Charlie Farhat 2-5 ... QB sacks: Kaden Streed 2, Owen Prokosch 1