Willmar looking to gain ground
It's been 18 years since Willmar finished 7-1 in the regular season. Trying to gain ground on Detroit Lakes in the Section 8AAAA standings, the Cardinals will try to emulate that regular-season success from 2000 when they host Rocori on Wednesday...
It's been 18 years since Willmar finished 7-1 in the regular season.
Trying to gain ground on Detroit Lakes in the Section 8AAAA standings, the Cardinals will try to emulate that regular-season success from 2000 when they host Rocori on Wednesday in the regular-season finale.
While the Spartans are the four-time defending 8AAAA champions, the team is on a slide this fall with a 1-6 record coming into Wednesday's matchup. Against Hutchinson in Week 7, Rocori allowed 409 yards on the ground, including 257 yards from Josiah Nelson, the leading rusher in the state according to MN Football Hub.
While the win-loss record has been unkind, the Spartans have been able to move the ball, averaging 278 yards per game. Quarterback Jack Steil has been a dual threat for Rocori with 531 yards on 47 of 98 passing while also running for 433 yards on 98 carries. Matt Koshiol leads the Spartans' ground game with 719 yards and 10 touchdowns on 120 attempts.
A cause for concern for Rocori has been turnovers, where it has given the ball to opposing teams 13 times.
While the Spartans have lost two straight, the Cardinals are cruising with five consecutive victories, including a 56-18 week seven home win over Becker.
Trailing 6-0 in the second quarter, Willmar scored 28 points in 4 minutes, 48 seconds to pull away. Quarterback Drey Dirksen threw for 223 yards and four touchdowns - two apiece to Jake Evans and Ryan Slette - while also running for 60 yards. Ethan Roux reached the end zone three times while rushing for 130 yards on 13 tries, and Alex Wickliff got the special teams on the scoreboard with a 72-yard punt return touchdown.
Willmar's defense also came up with four takeaways, with a pair of picks from Ty Roelofs and fumble recoveries from Carter Ochsendorf and Ashton Gregory.
In 2017, Rocori edged Willmar, 28-26. Losers of the last six head-to-head matchups, the last time the Cardinals knocked off the Spartans was on Oct. 11, 2013 by a final score of 56-13.