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Football: Willmar braces for Becker

Cardinals close out regular season on the road against No. 4 Bulldogs on Wednesday

Willmar junior Cullen Gregory, middle, looks for a receiver to throw to during a North Central White District game against Rocori on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 at Hodapp Field in Willmar.
Willmar junior Cullen Gregory, middle, looks for a receiver to throw to during a North Central White District game against Rocori on Friday, Oct. 7, 2022 at Hodapp Field in Willmar.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune
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WILLMAR — The Willmar football team just wants to handle its own business in Week 8.

At 7 p.m. Wednesday, the Cardinals close out the regular season at Becker in a battle of top 10 teams in Class AAAA. The Bulldogs (6-1) are fourth while the Cardinals (5-2) are tied for 10th.

There’s also postseason implications before the coaches vote in Section 2AAAA on Thursday as Willmar makes a late push for a first-round bye in the six-team section.

But, Cardinals head coach Jon Konold wants his team to control what it can against Becker.

“Our big focus is Wednesday and making sure our kids are ready to go,” Konold said. “We’ll let all that stuff shake itself out after Wednesday night.”

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The Bulldogs have won six straight games since losing Week 1 to Rocori. They are 3-0 in games decided by one possession. And over the last three games, Becker has outscored its opponents 133-20.

“They had some growing pains early on in the year and so did we,” Konold said. “Their quarterback has really led them and has done a nice job of getting the ball to the playmakers they have.”

That quarterback is senior Ryan Bengtson. A three-year starter, Bengtson has completed 97 of 164 passes for 1,170 yards, 13 touchdowns and two interceptions per MNFootballHub.com.

Last week in a 49-0 win over St. Cloud Apollo, Bengtson was 12 of 16 for 150 yards and two touchdowns.

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“Their quarterback is great; he’s a really good high-school quarterback,” Konold said. “He’s a coach’s kid, so he knows and understands the game of football really well.

“He delivers a really nice pass. He’s not a really great runner like how we run Cullen (Gregory), but he is an effective runner that if he needs to move around a little bit, he can.”

They also sport a run game that Konold describes as “sneaky good.” They use a pair of fullbacks in senior Adam Jurek (57 carries, 320 yards, six touchdowns) and junior Isaiah Gardner (69-426-4). They’ll also run with wingbacks with seniors Logan Eisele and Eli Scheideman.

“They like to run fullback iso a lot and like to run counter off of that,” Konold said. “Those backs, they’re quick.”

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The top receivers this season have been 6-foot-4 junior Kyan Blomquist (38 catches, 537 yards, five TDs) and 6-0 Alex Weiss (32-350-6).

“Their offense is really potent and we have our work cut out for us,” Konold said. “They’re a high-caliber offense.”

Willmar’s offense has come on over the past three weeks, averaging 33.0 points and 416.3 total yards in that stretch.

Said Konold, “We’re going to have to be able to move the ball ourselves and keep the ball away from them and get some points when we get into the red zone.”

Willmar head football coach Jon Konold goes to an official to call a timeout during a North Central White District game against Delano on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 at Hodapp Field.
Willmar head football coach Jon Konold goes to an official to call a timeout during a North Central White District game against Delano on Friday, Sept. 30, 2022 at Hodapp Field.
Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

After falling to Chisago Lakes 48-42 last week in double overtime, having a quick turnaround against a top-tier opponent like Becker is a daunting task. Having a short week means a short time to sulk over the loss as the Cardinals begin the postseason push.

“The nice thing about having a game right away is you have to be able to change gears and really move on to other things,” Konold said. “Our kids have been resilient all year. We played in a ton of tough games and we’ve shown we’re able to play with pretty much anybody that was on our schedule.

“Our kids will bounce back. They’ll be ready to go come Wednesday night. We’ll compete like crazy.”

In the 2AAAA standings, Marshall (7-0) and Hutchinson (6-1) appear to be in the driver’s seat for first-round byes. Marshall faces a Class AAA opponent in Belle Plaine. Hutchinson wraps up with Chisago Lakes.

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If the standings hold, that leaves Willmar and Jordan (4-3) in line to host quarterfinal games on Tuesday against either St. Peter (3-4) or Faribault (2-5).

“(Wednesday’s) a big game for us,” Konold said. “We’d like to obviously have a bye, but right now, we’re in a position where we’re probably going to be playing on Tuesday night. But we want a home game.

“We want to be able to play well on Wednesday and get that confidence back after a loss.”

Section 2AAAA standings

Team Record QRF value
Marshall 7-0 88.3
Hutchinson 6-1 85.6
Willmar 5-2 68.0
Jordan 4-3 48.0
St. Peter 3-4 38.3
Faribault 2-5 31.4

Related Topics: FOOTBALLWILLMAR CARDINALS
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