Tom Elliott: It's all still up for grabs for Willmar football

QRF confirms that the Cardinals are on target for a first-round playoff bye and a top-two section seed. Now, Willmar needs more victories to make that happen.

092521.S.WCT.Willmar FB Leiva.jpg
Willmar senior Jacob Leiva (31) runs out onto the field prior to a Week 4 game against Sartell on Friday, Sept. 25, 2021 at Hodapp Field in Willmar. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

WILLMAR — The Quality Results Formula, or QRF, power rankings are out.

They are an entity of the extremely useful web site. They fascinate because many high school football sections, as well as many other sports, use them for seeding purposes. They are proprietary and thus the formula for determining them is secret, though the basics are known: Strength of schedule matters. Beat a larger class team like Willmar did on Friday, for instance, and it helps your QRF. The Class AAAA Cards beat the Class AAAAA Sartell Sabres, 17-14.

The QRF rankings generally are pretty on target, though not everybody agrees.

It’s also midseason in the high school football world, with most teams having gotten in four games.

For Willmar (3-1), it looks like the Cardinals are headed to a No. 2 seed in Section 2AAAA, though that is far from certain. No. 1 is still up for grabs. And Willmar still has Delano (2-3), Rocori (4-1), Chisago Lakes (1-3) and Becker (4-0) remaining on the schedule. Not one of those games look easy on paper. Becker is No. 1 in the AAAA QRF rankings and Rocori is No. 7.


If Section 2AAAA were seeded today, Willmar would get a first-round bye and then have a home playoff game against Faribault (3-1) or Jordan (2-2). But it’s close.

Projected top seed Hutchinson (3-1) is coming off a 21-12 loss to Becker and has tough games at Rocori and Delano as well as home games with Big Lake and Chisago Lakes remaining. The Tigers will have their hands full on the road.

The QRF rankings in Section 2AAAA are: No. 4 Hutchinson, No. 13 Willmar, No. 17 Faribault (3-1), No. 21 St. Peter (2-2), No. 29 Marshall (2-2) and No. 31 Jordan (2-2).

There are 46 AAAA teams in the state.

Observations in other area sections:

Class AAA

  • Section 2AAA is the toughest in the state. Five of the seven teams in 2AAA have top-10 QRF rankings. No. 3 Litchfield (4-0) is looking good, but the Dragons’ status could be very different after Week 8. The rest of the section looks like this: No. 2 Providence Academy (4-0), No. 3 Dassel-Cokato (4-0), No. 9 Rockford (3-1), No. 10 Watertown-Mayer (3-1), No. 27 Glencoe-Silver Lake 2-2) and No. 44 Holy Family Catholic. Whoever emerges from 2AAA is a Prep Bowl contender.

  • New London-Spicer right now would be the top seed in 6AAA, if it were based on the QRF. The Wildcats’ section is extremely balanced. After No. 16 NLS (3-1), the QRF rankings are No. 21 Morris/Chokio-Alberta (3-1), No. 23 Pierz (3-1), No. 28 Albany (2-2), No. 37 Melrose (1-3), No. 37 Montevideo (1-3) and No. 53 Minnewaska (0-4). After four more regular-season games, these teams could be arranged in a very different order.

Class AA

  • There are three unbeaten teams in Section 5AA, No. 2 Eden Valley-Watkins (4-0), No. 9 Royalton (4-0) and No. 15 Kimball (4-0). No. 27 Paynesville (2-2) and No. 34 Atwater-Cosmos-Grove City (2-2) are certainly capable of moving up. No. 41 Holdingford (1-3) can move up, too.

Class A

  • Section 4A looks wide open. There doesn’t seem to be a lot separating the top four teams for sure: No. 20 Upsala/Swanville Area (3-1), No. 24 Browerville/Eagle Valley (3-1), No. 28 Benson (2-2) and No. 32 Belgrade-Brooten-Elrosa (2-2). No. 41 Parkers Prairie (1-3), No. 49 Kerkhoven-Murdock-Sunburg (0-4) and No. 52 Long Prairie-Grey Eagle (0-4) can still improve their positions in the second half.

  • The more things change, the more they stay the same. That BOLD (4-0) is No. 1 in the Class A QRF wouldn’t surprise anyone who has followed the Warriors from afar. That this year’s squad has achieved that is a testimony to the program’s strength. There are many, many new faces, but BOLD remains tough. No. 3 Dawson-Boyd (4-0), No. 12 Minneota (4-0) and No. 14 Lakeview (3-1) all look like tough matchups for opponents. No. 36 Canby (2-2), No. 44 Lac qui Parle Valley (1-3), No. 55 MACCRAY (0-4) and No. 55 Yellow Medicine East (0-4) have opportunities to move up in the QRF.

Class 9-Man

  • Renville County West (2-2) is No. 35 in the QRF and certainly can wind up in the top three in Section 2 with some victories. No. 4 Hancock (4-0) and No. 6 Sleepy Eye St. Mary’s (4-0) look like the favorites. No. 29 Ortonville (2-2), No. 30 Cedar Mountain (2-2) and No. 46 Nicollet (1-3) can move up. No. 58 Buffalo Lake-Hector-Stewart (0-4) is rebuilding.

The state quarterfinals are Nov. 11-13 at sites around the state. The state semifinals are Nov. 18-20 at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, with the state championships set for Nov. 26-27 at the Bank.

CC looking good

The Willmar girls cross-country team is in the strongest Class AA section in the state. Section 8AA features four of the top six teams in the state.


Willmar, which was the preseason favorite, is ranked second behind St. Paul Highland Park. But also from Section 8AA is No. 4 Alexandria, No. 5 Rocori and No. 6 Pequot Lakes. All are capable of winning the section and earning a state berth.

Willmar’s boys, meanwhile, are ranked seventh in Class AA and look to be the favorites in Section 8AA as well. East Grand Forks, another 8AA contender, is receiving votes in the most recent state coaches’ association poll.

Willmar’s Lauren Eilers is ranked 12th in the state in Class AA. Albany’s Olivia Goebel, another Section 8AA runner, is ranked fifth. Other 8AA girls runners ranked are: Alexandria’s Aleah Miller at No. 9 and Pequot Lakes’ Calia Chaney at No. 11. Willmar’s Erin Eilers, Lauren’s twin sister, is receiving votes, as is Alexandria’s Emma Ecker.

Willmar’s Sully Anez would be considered the favorite to win Section 8AA, along with East Grand Forks’ Jonathan Krueger. Anez is ranked ninth in the state. Krueger is receiving votes.

Willmar is host to an invitational at 1 p.m. Saturday at Eagle Creek Golf Course. Competitors include Albany, third-ranked Marshall and Class AAA power Hopkins.

The Section 8AA championships are Oct. 28 at Arrowwood Resort in Alexandria. The state meet is Nov. 6 at St. Olaf College in Northfield.


092521.S.WCT.Willmar FB Price run.jpg
Willmar senior running back Michael Price tip-toes the sideline during a Week 4 game against Sartell on Friday at Hodapp Field in Willmar. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

Tom Elliott has been the sports editor at the West Central Tribune since September 2019.
Contact him at or leave a message at 320-235-1150.
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