Prep football: Willmar Section 6AAAAA Preview
Overview It's shocking to think that after belting Brainerd on Sept. 5 for a 2-0 start that the Cardinals would end up on the bottom of Section 6AAAAA. Yet, after a four-game losing streak, there they are lining up against Rogers (7-1) tonight at...
It’s shocking to think that after belting Brainerd on Sept. 5 for a 2-0 start that the Cardinals would end up on the bottom of Section 6AAAAA. Yet, after a four-game losing streak, there they are lining up against Rogers (7-1) tonight at the Royals’ home field north of I-94 on Hwy. 101. Based on Minnesota Scores QRF and the polls at least Willmar is in the basement of the toughest AAAAA section in the state. Rogers dropped to No. 4 in the QRF behind Section 6 colleagues Elk River (No. 1) and St. Michael-Albertville (No. 2). Mankato West is No 3. Top CLC members are Bemidji (6), Moorhead (7) and Brainerd (13). Buffalo and Willmar both finished 3-5 but the Bison, playing in a rougher neighborhood, rank 31st and Willmar 38th. The No. 5 Bison play at No. 4 Monticello (5-3)
The runnin’ Royals
Through seven games, the Royals, ranked No. 3 by MaxPreps, featured four running backs with 20 or more carries each averaging over nine-yards per carry. Gunnar Bloom, a 5-11, 170-pound senior, is the thoroughbred with 16 rushing TDs and just short of 1,000 yards rushing in eight games He ran for 88 yards vs. the Knights and caught a TD pass from senior Andy Borchardt (8-15, 188 yards), who has been picked just twice all fall. Boschart went to 6-foot-8 tight end Cole Murray three times in the Royals’ last-minute drive after STMA had gone up 22-21 with a two-point conversion, but a 32-yard field goal attempt failed on the last play giving the Knights the Mississipi 8 Blue Division title and a first-round bye.
Sure, this bird has been plucked before, but it’s hard to avoid Willmar’s fourth-quarter frustration (outscored 63-7 in the four-game slide). The team has just been outperformed by the opposition at crunch time. “If I had the answer, we’d fix it,” said coach Jon Konold. “It’s a combination of things, including mental and physical errors. We’re losing to good competition. We haven’t executed on third down on offense and the same on defense to get off the field. Those are both big issues. We keep battling. The kids aren’t tired in the fourth quarter” as most two-way players are rotating on at least one side of the ball. As far as the Royals, they are almost all one-way starters and seniors and juniors “It’s going to be a challenge,” said Konold. “They’ve been rated No. 1 at times. “Their offensive line really fires off the ball. We’ll play hard and we can’t turn the ball over.”
Willmar moved the ball downfield in each off its first four possessions in the 31-14 loss to St. Cloud Tech but only finished off the first drive, directed by Auggie Hahn. Starting out, Konold again plans to rotate Hahn and Zach Radermacher. Safety Colten Carlson had a big game defensively with several tackles behind the Tigers’ line. Center Alex Khalil did a “really nice job” directing the offensive line with blocking calls while making solid shotgun snaps and also played well rotating into the defensive line every third series.
- Rand Middleton