Football: Willmar's Jackson Schnichels stands out as top target


— Jackson Schnichels had a change of mind at the end of last season.

Schnichels played quarterback on the


junior varsity football team in 2022 and backed up Cullen Gregory on the varsity as a sophomore. Playing time at QB would be limited with Gregory back as the primary signal-caller.

So in an exit meeting last season, Schnichels brought up moving to wide receiver. It had been the position he played throughout middle school before moving to quarterback in high school.

"Working at quarterback, it helped me with reads and routes. And I figured since we already have a quarterback, I could get some playing time (at WR)," Schnichels said.

The transition back to the perimeter has already paid dividends for Schnichels and the Cardinals' offense.

Heading into Friday's Week 3 game at Princeton, Schnichels is the team's leading receiver with seven receptions for 106 yards. In the Cardinals' 28-21 loss to Marshall last Friday, Schnichels hauled in three catches for 57 yards, including a 46-yard reception.

"He's had a lot of growth from the beginning of the summer until now," Willmar head coach Jon Konold said of Schnichels. "He just keeps learning the nuances of running good routes and getting open. He's not blessed with great speed, but he's fast enough to get open and he runs really good, solid routes. He catches the ball really really well.

"He's emerging right now as our top target and I think Cullen really trusts the routes he's running. He's stepped up, which is something we need going forward."

That chemistry between Schnichels and Gregory was being built last season as the two traded snaps at quarterback.

"He was just like a little brother," Gregory said. "In the long run it helped him at wide receiver by knowing all the routes and finding open field."

With Schnichels making the switch, the two worked together in 7-on-7 passing leagues in Willmar and at Morris. Gregory had a new 6-foot-2 target to toss the ball to.

"That helped build a lot of trust," Schnichels said. "He could always find me and (I'd) catch the ball for him."

The Cardinals had the same situation last season when Jacob Streed converted from quarterback to receiver. He ended up with 23 catches, one touchdown and a team-high 355 receiving yards.

Early on, Konold has been pleasantly surprised by Schnichels' big-play ability. The hope is that'll open things up for the rest of the offense as the season progresses.

"It's been a big lift for the offense to get big chunk plays down the field in the passing game," Konold said. "We're not asking him to just run by a corner; we have a couple different concepts where we're able to sneak him through the middle of the field, some different timing plays and routes to get him free. ... We haven't been great at (big pass plays) the last couple years, but it's nice to have the ability to get the ball down the field."

Gregory praised Schnichels' route-running, saying he's the best on the team in that skill.

"He just finds open space," Gregory said. "(And) being a quarterback, he just knows where he should be."

Schnichels is still the backup quarterback for the Cardinals. But until he's called into action, he'll look to improve on the nuances to become a better overall receiver.

"I struggle with blocking," Schnichels admitted. "I'm not the biggest guy but that's definitely something to work on."

Gregory added, "He's put a lot of work becoming a really good wide receiver for us."

Minneota at BOLD

7 p.m. Friday

It's No. 1 vs. No. 2 in Class A Friday at Olivia.

BOLD comes into the game ranked second in the state after wins over Windom (71-34) and MACCRAY (67-7). The Warriors are led by a ground game that's averaging 446.5 yards per game. Hudson Vosika has 279 yards and four touchdowns on 21 carries. Brady Kiecker has 193 yards and two scores on 25 carries, and Austin Kiecker has 177 yards and four scores on 25 attempts. Tate Sheehan has anchored the defense with 17 total tackles and the defense has seven takeaways on the season (three interceptions, four fumbles).

The defending Class A state champs are as formidable as ever with victories over Russell-Tyler-Ruthton (55-6) and Yellow Medicine East (63-19).

Last week against the Sting, the Vikings ran for 390 yards and had eight touchdowns on the ground. Pacing the ground game was Ryan Meagher, who finished with 150 yards and four TDs on 15 carries. Destin Fier, Max Rost, Easton Johnston and Brock Fier also had rushing scores for Minneota against YME.

The Vikings have won the last three meetings against BOLD, including last season's Section 5A semifinals on Oct. 29, 2022 by a score of 21-0. The Warriors' last win in the series came in the 5A championship on Nov. 2, 2018, 49-7.

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


* Willmar at Princeton

* Dassel-Cokato at New London-Spicer

* Litchfield at Foley

* Upsala/Swanville Area at ACGC

* Benson at BBE

* Paynesville at Kimball

* Minneota at BOLD

* Pierz at Minnewaska

* Melrose at Montevideo

* Lakeview at Dawson-Boyd

* Browerville/Eagle Valley at KMS


* MACCRAY at Canby

* RCW at Madelia