HUTCHINSON, MINN. – The Hutchinson Tigers were playing the Willmar Cardinals for the first time since 2010. The Cardinals won that first-round playoff game 21-7 in a howling wind at Willmar.
This is remembered in Hutch because it gave the Tigers a 4-5 record, ending a run of 47 consecutive winning seasons. They now have had six more winning seasons, meaning Friday night’s visitors were responsible for Hutch’s only nonwinning season in 54 years.
Hutchinson and Willmar will become more familiar football opponents in the future, as they are now united in the tradition-rich North Central District, White Division. If things work out, this hardware would look very prestigious among Hutch’s five state title keepsakes in the school’s crowded trophy case: 2017 NCDWD Champions.
The Minnesota State High School League eliminated football conferences and started the district system in 2015. The first couple of years allowed Hutch to continue to play neighborhood rivals, such as Glencoe-Silver Lake and Litchfield, as members of the new East Central South.
Hutchinson does have that football tradition, and there were some complainants to get the Tigers and Becker gerrymandered out of the district.
Hutchinson and Becker are Class 4A teams, as was the remainder of the East Central South. No matter. The complaints fell on open ears, and starting this season, Hutch and Becker find themselves in the wide-ranging, 22-team North Central, with one 6A team (Buffalo), 15 5A teams and six 4A teams.
Andy Rostberg, in his 19th season as coach, shrugged a couple of hours before kickoff and said: “I told my athletic director, ‘We’re going to spend a lot more money on travel, and bring in less without teams like Glencoe on the schedule, but it is what it is.’ ”
On Friday, it was a beautiful evening in Hutch, and a Willmar team was here in its extra-spiffy, red-and-white uniforms with a fast-paced, wide-open passing offense, to take on Hutch’s run-first (as always) attack.
That Willmar offense with quarterback Donald Jurek was as dynamic as anticipated. He wound up 30-for-45 for 307 yards, and that doesn’t include three two-point conversions.
This is Hutch, though, and the Tigers got it rolling with 26 consecutive points to end the first half, then used the explosiveness of Maguire Petersen and tough inside running to win a 46-38 brawl. The teams combined for 878 yards.
The evening could not have started in more miserable fashion for Hutch against Willmar’s spread offense.
On its first possession, the Tigers were caught looking at Jurek and the four wideouts, and tailback Ethan Roux burst 33 yards for a touchdown. He also ran in a two-point conversion and it was 8-0.
Lane Glaser threw an interception when Hutchinson got the ball back. Whoosh! Jurek hit Noah Slagler with a 46-yard pass, and Roux scored from in close. Another two-pointer and it was 16-0 with 7:08 left in the first.
Rostberg was talking about his team earlier and said: “Maguire Petersen is an excellent player, a great athlete. He’s a 6-foot-7 high jumper.”
Where does he play? “Receiver, runner … don’t worry, you’ll notice him,” the coach said.
The first time Petersen was noticed came when he punted the ball straight up and it went for 4 yards.
Willmar had the ball at Hutch’s 44. Down 16-0, if the Tigers didn’t get the stop here, they were looking at a Hutch rarity: a blowout loss.
They got the stop. And then Roux, Willmar’s standout runner, was in on a tackle, and was aided off the field with a banged-up knee. He returned, but not until Hutchinson got back in the game, and then some.
That comment about noticing Petersen … yeah, Rostberg was right. Petersen went 50 yards for a score on his second carry. Then, Glaser heaved a pass down the left sideline, Petersen snatched it, and that became a 56-yard touchdown.
It went on like that. Petersen was very noticeable, and Hutch was in front 26-16 at halftime. The Willmar passing onslaught continued, and so did the two-point conversions — 4-for-5 for the Cardinals, compared to 2-for-7 for Hutch.
Here’s an idea if Hutch truly wants to add that 2017 NCDWD trophy to its case: Get a kicker.