WILLMAR — Whether he’s pulling across the line or overpowering defenders in his way, Ethan Schwab has paved the way for big plays.

In his second year as the starting left tackle on the Cardinals’ offensive line, Schwab’s mix of size and agility has helped the team average 227 rushing yards a game.

“I just feel a lot more confident in what I’m doing in my assignments,” Schwab said. “(I’m) a lot more confident and bigger than I was last year.”

While they took a 16-14 loss to Rocori last Friday, the Cardinals’ left side of the line helped spring Willmar to a 14-0 lead. Late in the first half, quarterback Alex Schramm followed a Schwab block down the field for a 20-yard touchdown. Then in the third, Schwab and left guard Anthony Alonzo double-teamed the defensive end before Schwab chipped off and blocked the middle linebacker, opening a lane for Schramm to dart through the Spartans’ defense for a 58-yard score.

“(Ethan’s) a big kid and he moves well,” said Willmar head coach Jon Konold. “He’s athletic and he’s got good feet. There’s some technique things he needs to work on, but the big thing is he’s gotten bigger from last year.”

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One of the bookends of an offensive line that averages 255 pounds, Schwab and the Cardinals look to sustain the ground-game success against top-ranked (in Class AAAA) Hutchinson at 7 p.m. Friday at Hodapp Field. The Tigers are coming into the Week 4 matchup holding teams to 109.7 rushing yards per game.

Listed at 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds as a junior in 2019, Schwab is now at 6-2 and 296 pounds for his junior season.

“He’s gotten that big and he’s still that quick on his feet,” Konold said. “That’s pretty impressive.”

Schwab had plenty of help at home to add the bulk without losing any athleticism. His dad, Jason is a trainer at Bar Path Crossfit in Willmar.

“I just lifted a lot in the summer,” Ethan said matter-of-factly. “Just doing what (my dad) told me to do.”

Willmar left tackle Ethan Schwab gets into a three-point stance during a Week 1 game against Delano on Oct. 10. 

Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
Willmar left tackle Ethan Schwab gets into a three-point stance during a Week 1 game against Delano on Oct. 10. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Normally, a player Schwab’s size would play guard on the Cardinals’ offensive line. But, Schwab’s athleticism has bucked the norm for Konold.

“Him and our other tackle Daniel (Lohse) move really well and they pull really well on our wrap plays, as we call them,” Konold said. “They’re able to get to that second level and get locked onto linebackers. Even on screen plays, in the first week, Ethan struggled going out there and trying to block those skinner kids. But he’s figured that out now. He’s broken it down and learned.

“The thing with Ethan is he’s smart and he seems like a big teddy bear, but when you snap the ball, he gets after you.”

On pass blocking assignments, Konold has seen Schwab’s confidence come out outwardly.

“We had a game where we had five-man protection with the running back out on a route,” Konold said. “There was an outside blitzer and he told his partner to slide out with him and it worked really well. That communication piece worked well.”

A year ago, Konold said that Schwab was feeling things out as a first-year starter. Now, Schwab knows he’s better than the player across the line of scrimmage.

“I know what I’m doing,” Schwab said. “I know I can beat the guy in front of me. There’s more confidence in what I’m capable of.”

Konold added, “More confidence brings more aggression, so he’s able to really just dominate his opponent. He’s getting more aggressive because he’s gotten physically bigger and stronger.”

For late results

Check out Sports Extra for all of Tuesday’s late volleyball results, including the Willmar vs. Alexandria and Benson vs. BOLD matches at Epaper.Wctrib.com