Football: Willmar Cardinals make a final push

Oct. 17—WILLMAR — Talking to his team on Monday, Willmar head football coach Jon Konold said to the players they have two choices.

"We can either lay down and go throught the motions these next however many games we have," Konold said, "or we can try to do something about it.

"It may not end up in the results we want but playing hard and playing for each other and playing for our pride, our community and our school, it's important to work hard and to do those things."

In the regular-season finale Wednesday, the Cardinals make the trek to Fridley to play Totino-Grace. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.

The Eagles (5-2) have one of the state's strongest traditions with 26 state appearances. For the first time since 2010, Totino-Grace is playing in Class AAAA after previously opting up to AAAAA and 6A.

T-G is coming off a 31-7 loss to Orono after winning three straight. To Konold's recollection, this is the first time the Cardinals and Eagles have matched up.

"Our opponents this year, everybody has a strong tradition in football," Konold said. "They're a really good program. They know they're good and they play that way. Their tradition speaks for themselves. Them dropping down this year makes them a competitor for the section playoffs."

In contrast to their namesake, the Eagles thrive on the ground game. Their double wing offense has led to a trio of backs with more than 250 rushing yards. Senior Justin Kuharski leads the way with 577 yards and seven touchdowns on 86 carries. Junior Maquel Keten is next with 466 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 57 attempts. And senior Noah Hill has 252 yards and two TDs on 50 carries. T-G averages 206.3 rushing yards per game.

"They do a lot of trades and motions and jet sweeps," Konold said. "Their favorite plays are jet sweeps and power.

"They're a real physical football team. That's what they're known for and that's what they'll throw at us."

Konold is expecting an aggressive showing from the Eagles' 3-4 defense similar to what they've seen from teams like Becker and Marshall.

"We need to be able to make sure we get everybody blocked up," Konold said. "We have to really control the edge guys. We gotta read them really well. We got to block them really well so we can create that five-man box in the middle and be able to run the ball effectively on them."

The seeding in Section 2AAAA is a coaches' vote and Konold is expecting the Cardinals to get the fifth seed. If the section standings hold, that would put Willmar in St. Peter in the first round next Tuesday in the 4-5 matchup. The goal Wednesday is to get some positive momentum going into postseason play.

"This is the seniors' last go-around," Konold said. "So my hope is that they're playing with some urgency and they want to play well and do the best they can."

Annandale at New London-Spicer

7 p.m. Wednesday

New London-Spicer will try to play spoiler to Annandale's perfect season.

The Wildcats (5-2) are on a roll, winning three straight games by an average score of 51.7-10.0. In last week's 62-12 win over St. Cloud Apollo, NLS ran for 405 yards. Mason Delzer led the charge with 215 yards on nine carries for an average of 23.9 yards per carry. He also scored five total touchdowns, with four on the ground along with a kickoff return.

The Wildcats will try to keep that offensive pace up against a Cardinals team that has held opponents to 7.4 points per game. They've shut out opponents twice and have given up double-digit points just two times this season.

Last week, Annandale beat Foley 21-6. Three Cardinals ran for TDs against the Falcons: Isaiah Turner, Nick Walter and Connor Lampi.

A win would strengthen NLS' claim to the top seed in Section 6AAA. The Wildcats are ranked 12th in Class AAA with a QRF rating of 62.3, according to Albany (5-2) is ranked 16th at 54.3, followed by 5-2 Montevideo at 21st with 48.4

(Games at 7 p.m. unless otherwise noted)


* Lakeview at LQPV


* Minnewaska at Melrose, 2:30 p.m.

* Willmar at Totino-Grace

* Annandale at New London-Spicer

* Richfield at Litchfield

* Benson at ACGC

* KMS at BBE

* Royalton at Paynesville

* Canby at BOLD

* Albany at Montevideo

* Minneota at Dawson-Boyd


* Mountain Lake at RCW