The St. Cloud Apollo Eagles (0-1) took on the visiting Willmar Cardinals (0-0) in game number two of their 2021 season on what was a cool and damp Friday night in central Minnesota. Apollo was looking for win number one after dropping their home opener against Hutchinson the prior week, and Willmar was set to play their season opener after coming off a 6-2 record during the shortened 2020 campaign.
The Eagles came out strong in quarter number one, Apollo’s Senior Quarterback Andrew Karls led his offense into the red-zone and capped off the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Kayfes. With a 6-0 lead midway through the first quarter, Apollo took advantage of the early rust Willmar was having on both sides of the ball. The Eagles would extend their lead just before the end of the first on a huge deep ball from Karls that hit receiver Mach Ruot in stride down the middle of the field for a 64-yard touchdown.
A 12-0 lead for the Eagles did not last long, the Cardinals offense finally struck on a 29-yard touchdown pass to running back Michael Price that was delivered by Senior quarterback Alex Schramm to cut the deficit to 12-7. Late in the second quarter a costly turnover by the Eagles deep in their own territory gave the Cardinals great starting field position. The very next play Price scampered into the endzone untouched on an 8-yard carry and just like that Willmar takes a 13-12 lead into halftime.
Apollo received the second half kickoff and like we saw early in the game, Karls led the Eagles on a 77-yard opening touchdown drive on a 1-yard QB sneak to grab a 18-13 lead for Apollo. As the third quarter continued, you could start to see Willmar’s offense find their rhythm thanks to a great ground game by both Price and Schramm. That allowed Senior receiver Brett Sunder to get behind the Eagles secondary and grab a 48-yard touchdown pass to put Willmar back on top 19-18 entering the fourth quarter.
The fourth consisted of a steady diet of Price running the football with the Cardinals content on keeping the clock moving with hopes of delivering the dagger. Apollo’s defense held strong however and gave the offense two chances late to win the ball game. One possession ended on a tremendous defensive play made by Price on fourth down. Karls had Rout all alone at midfield attempting a basket catch when Price dives from behind to knock the ball loose. The last drive for the Eagles came after a huge interception and return by Karls leaving the ball at their own 48-yard line with a minute and some change on the game clock. This drive would once again be decided on a fourth down. Karls dropped back and threw a ball towards the sideline intended for Rout, but he was unable to come up with a diving catch. Willmar (1-0) holds on in their season opener with a 19-18 victory over St. Cloud Apollo (0-2).
St. Cloud Apollo will head on the road for the first-time next week for a matchup against Big Lake (0-1) on Friday, Sep. 10. Game time is set for 7:00, the game can be heard on 97.5 Radio X.