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Willmar spoils Alexandria's last homecoming at Citizens Field

Willmar's junior running back Michael Heitzman left a few defenders on the ground as he looked up field during a nice run in the first half on Saturday afternoon. Heitzman ran for Willmar's first three touchdowns. (Eric Morken/Echo Press)

Willmar's talented backfield proved to be almost unstoppable on Saturday afternoon as the visiting Cardinals came into Alexandria on homecoming and left with a 55-21 win.

Junior running back Michael Heitzman and quarterback Augustine Hahn combined for six rushing touchdowns in the game and Hahn threw for another as the duo made life miserable for the Alexandria defense all day. Heitzman scored his team's first three touchdowns on runs of seven, nine and one yard before Hahn got in on the action with a rushing touchdown from inside the 10 that made it 27-0 at the half.

"It's definitely not fun, that's for sure," Alexandria senior captain Parker Bowden said. "Giving up 55 points, that just can't happen if you expect to win a game."

Willmar came into the game averaging 35 points per game and the 55 points was a season high on Saturday. Hahn ran for two more scores in the second half of 11 and almost 50 yards before he connected with Tyler Pendill on a 14-yard touchdown that made it 48-7. The Willmar starters watched from there as they dropped Alexandria to 0-5 and moved to 4-1 themselves.

"We knew Willmar had very good athletes at their skill positions," Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said. "We knew that coming in. From here, I just think we have to stay true to what we're doing. I have to watch the video, but it looked like a lot of times on their running game, that we had guys at the point of attack. I mean, there were a few times where I thought we were going to have them corralled for a loss and it ended up being a 10-yard game. They just made really good plays."

Heitzman is listed at just 5'6" and 165 pounds, but he played with a combination of strength and elusiveness that caused Alexandria fits. Couple that with Hahn's big day on the ground and his ability to throw to guys like 6'6" Adam Nibaur and 6'5" Austin Grove and it made for a long day on defense for the home Cardinals.

"Michael, he's really good," Bowden said. "One man can't bring him down. You got to bring the whole house. Their quarterback, he can throw too, so they have a good balance. It keeps you on your toes."

Alexandria struggled equally on the offensive side of the ball. The Cardinals' only touchdown through three quarters came on special teams when junior lineman Mitch Maday scooped up a fumble on a Willmar punt return and took it to the end zone to make it a 34-7 game. Senior running back Mitch Peck had a 38-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Freshman quarterback Jaran Roste also scored on a run of about four yards after taking over for senior John Vogeler with the game well out of reach late.

The Cardinals had to patch together their offensive line after being without their starting center and starting right tackle because of injury. Willmar took advantage of that and pressured Vogeler all afternoon. They also bottled up the Alexandria running game as the Cardinals struggled to move the ball against the Willmar first-string defense.

"I thought in previous games he's had a little bit more time to throw the ball," Empting said of Vogeler. "Today, it just seemed like he barely had time. We were in shotgun and even just in three-step drops he would barely get set and he had company back there with him...we tried to do some different things to try and free him up a little bit more in the passing game. We still struggled there, and we struggled to get it going on the ground too."

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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