Tom Elliott: Cards, Wildcats should be OK

With the first week of prep football in the books, it looks like both Willmar and New London-Spicer will have decent seasons. Plus, some other observations

Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa sophomore quarterback Luke Dingmann attempts a pass against Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021 in Belgrade. Matthew Curry/West Central Tribune

A first week of prep football went without a hitch. If you had anything to do with it, pat yourself on the back.

Everybody played everybody they were supposed to play. Sure, there was a little rain. But everybody will take that when compared to the semi-controlled chaos that was the 2020 season, fueled by a pandemic we were uncertain about.

With fingers crossed, we take a look at what should be a normal Week 2, with some observations about the welcomingly normal Week 1:

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Tom Elliott


Cards are OK

Willmar should be all right. The Cardinals have some pieces in place to be highly competitive, from quarterback Alex Schramm to running back Michael Price to wide receiver Brandt Sunder. That they rallied to beat St. Cloud Apollo 19-18 showed some good things. But it also showed the Cardinals have a lot of work to do, especially with perennial state power Hutchinson on the schedule Friday in what should be another tough road game.

The Tigers are 2-0 after beating Alexandria 36-20 last week after opening with a 44-6 win over Apollo in a zero-week game Aug. 27. That score alone should tell you how tall the task is for the Cardinals this week.

NLS should be OK, too

A coaching shift at the top, with highly successful Dan Essler retiring and long-time assistant Chad Gustafson taking over, didn’t seem to affect New London-Spicer much in its 28-14 road win over St. Cloud Cathedral.

The Wildcats’ Brycen Christensen is definitely a player to watch in the west central area and should help NLS to a successful season. That said, Watertown-Mayer on Friday in New London will be a tougher task. The Royals opened with a 28-12 victory over Foley.

Looking good

The most notable win last week was Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa’s 26-0 victory over Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg. The victory ended a 25-game losing streak. The encouraging stat for the Jaguars was 219 yards rushing on 38 carries. Teams that can consistently run the ball in high school football consistently win.

BBE has a chance to make it two in a row this week at Maple Lake. The Irish got handled by Upsala/Swanville Area last week, losing to the Patriots 36-0.

Maple Lake has a new head coach. Tim Knudsen retired, turning the position over to Mike Rowe, who is Maple Lake’s superintendent of schools. Rowe also led Rocori to a state Class AAAA football championship in 2011, so he has a strong resume.

  • Dawson-Boyd has an impressive home-opening win, beating Minnesota Valley Lutheran 32-8 with a balanced offense that included 195 rushing and 192 passing yards. The Blackjacks now must prove they win on the road, playing at Canby. The Lancers beat the Wabasso Rabbits 20-8 in their opener, using a balanced attack of 127 rushing and 116 passing yards.

  • Renville County West looked good in a 26-8 victory at Westbrook-Walnut Grove, piling up 312 rushing yards. The Jaguars get an interesting home-opener against Mountain Lake on Friday in Danube. The Wolverines opened with a 24-0 victory over Red Rock Central, which is impressive enough. But, Mountain Lake is actually defending state Nine-Man champion, having won the title in 2019 (there were no state titles in 2020).

  • Litchfield, which has a lot of new faces, rolled past Milaca 32-8 and are poised to do the same this week at home against Holy Family Catholic. Holy Family opened with a 41-0 loss to Albany.

Tough starts

There’s nowhere to go but up for Minnewaska, MACCRAY, Benson, Montevideo, Lac qui Parle Valley and Yellow Medicine East, who all opened with fairly decisive losses. All have opportunities to get victories this week.


KMS junior Isaac Rudningen looks for a pass as he is defended by BBE's Blaine Fischer on Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, at Belgrade. Matthew Curry/West Central Tribune

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