Cover image from mnhshp.com There were not a lot of close football games during the Minnesota state high school semi-finals last weekend. Out of fourteen games, only two contests ended with the winning team up by one score or…
Cover image from mnhshp.com
There were not a lot of close football games during the Minnesota state high school semi-finals last weekend. Out of fourteen games, only two contests ended with the winning team up by one score or less. Of all the lopsided games, Willmar’s 62-20 victory over St. Paul Johnson might have been the most impressive. The Cardinals’ offense put up 41 points in the first half and only allowed seven points on defense until they gave up a couple of late scores long after the outcome was decided.
In a huge understatement, the Cardinals had a few individuals who put up impressive performances.
At the center of everything offensively for the Cardinals was quarterback Drey Dirksen. He is very mobile and runs the run-pass option game expertly. He is a real threat to run the ball too. The RPO action is not just window dressing. He ran ten times for 90 yards and three touchdowns.
Dirksen has a big arm but also – outside of a handful of slants in the middle of the game – he was very accurate. His best ball of the game was a deep post he threw to Jake Evans. It was right on the money and Evans didn’t have to break stride. Dirksen finished the game 10-16 for 215 yards and four touchdowns.
Evans was Dirksen’s biggest weapon in the passing game. In addition to the deep post, Evans caught four more passes. He grabbed a short hitch route that should have gone for a short gain. However, he spun around, broke a tackle and got upfield for a big gain. Later he caught a slant in traffic and topped it off with the most impressive catch of the game. With Evans streaking down the sidelines, Dirksen’s throw was slightly over-thrown. Evans’ diving catch resulted in a 35-yard touchdown and his third touchdown catch of the contest. On the defensive side of the ball, Evans intercepted a slant pattern.
The offensive line of Eric Watland, Blake Thomas, Taggert Reynolds, Teagan Griedger, and Aidan Donelan helped the Cardinal offense roll up over 400 yards of offense. They were outstanding with their pass protection allowing Dirksen time to look over the field, often without any pressure.
Defensively, although St. Paul Johnson had some success running the ball, Willmar’s defense didn’t allow the Governors to get any consistency going until late in the game.
Andrew Reigstad started the game with good penetration into Johnson’s backfield. Later the Governors tried to run a jet sweep, but Reigstad was in the backfield again and forced the runner up the field early and into waiting Cardinals’ defenders. He was in the backfield a third time, forcing the quarterback to keep, instead of pitching the ball, allowing Alexander Wickliff to make a tackle on the outside.
Wickliff did a little bit of everything for the Cardinals. In addition to making the tackle on the quarterback keeper, he made a solid tackle in the open field for a short loss. He broke up a pair of passes down the sidelines and along with Ben Hisken was in tight coverage later in the game. With Kadin Larsson holding the edge on a run to the outside, Wickliff made a tackle in space for a short gain. The senior came up with yet another tackle in the outside for a loss. This time it was set up by Kaden Streed stringing the run to the outside.
On special teams, Wickliff also ran back a long punt return, and on offense caught a deep ball down the sidelines.
In addition to funneling a back into Wickliff, Streed held the edge again and made a tackle for a short gain. He later showed his athletic ability by running down a play from the backside for a loss. He also had a 38-yard punt bounce out of bounds at the 6-yard line.
Larsson got immediate penetration as a linebacker and wasn’t fooled by a misdirection play. Later he held the edge and forced the running back into teammates for a loss. He then made a tackle for loss of his own on the outside. Additionally, Larsson read a misdirection play for a tackle for loss.
Safety Ethan Roux came up strong to make a tackle on the edge. Later he got home on a blitz and hit the quarterback just as he threw the ball. Ty Roelofs picked off the overthrown ball and returned it for a 54-yard touchdown. Roux also impacted the offense. He only had two carries, but one was a powerful run that blew through a Johnson tackler.
Roelofs also made a pair of solid tackles on the edge for short losses. Then he picked off a pass while covering a fly pattern.
Caleb Owens impacted both sides of the ball. He made a catch in the flat and was able to turn upfield for twenty yards. Then in the defensive side of the ball, he intercepted an overthrown pass.
Willmar’s victory sets them up to play the SMB Wolfpack for the 4A championship later this week.