Cards give one away against Sartell
There was a common theme among players and coaches after the Alexandria football team fell to 0-2 after a 27-19 loss to Sartell in the home opener for the Cardinals on Friday night.
Alexandria had three turnovers and plenty of costly penalties that came at inopportune times. The Cardinals turned it over on their first two possessions and trailed 7-0 early. It could have been worse, but Riley Hvezda dived to intercept a ball in the end zone to stop a Sartell drive on the Sabres' second possession. In the end, the mistakes were too much to overcome as the Sabres' Darek Stachowski had touchdown runs of 20 and 26 yards to lead his team to the Central Lakes Conference win.
"It's the mistakes that really killed us," Alexandria senior running back Mitch Peck said. "We were killing ourselves the whole game. We just have to clean up all the mistakes and that's what will fix things."
Peck had two touchdowns of his own, including a 58-yard catch and run on a screen pass that got his team within a touchdown with 1:29 left. Sartell was able to cover up the ensuing onside kick before taking a few knees to run out the clock and improve to 1-1 on the season.
The Cardinals had their chances to tie the game in the fourth quarter. They took over with 8:51 left trailing by eight but were forced to punt after going three and out. Alexandria's defense held, forcing Sartell into a punting situation. The Cardinals were set to get the ball back with 6:36 left, but senior Parker Bowden mishandled the punt and the Sabres fell on it to take possession. Stachowski made that hurt as he broke a couple tackles a few plays later and scampered in for a 26-yard touchdown that all but ended it.
"You look at it, we had our chances," head coach Mike Empting said. "Put the ball on the ground, get a penalty. We'd have a big offensive play and then get a penalty, get a big defensive play, then get a penalty. Not smart penalties. Kids are playing really hard, but we're just doing a lot of things to beat ourselves right now."
Quarterback John Vogeler knew he made a costly mistake on a big play in the third quarter with his team down by 14. Vogeler busted off a pretty 33-yard run that saw him burst through the hole and break to the right sideline. He lowered his shoulder and knocked over a defender before stepping out of bounds near the Sartell 11-yard line. Vogeler was then called for a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for taunting the defender after the play. Alexandria failed to score on the drive.
"That was a stupid, stupid move on my part," Vogeler said. "I apologize for that. I got too into the game. My emotions took over. That wasn't needed to be succesful in this game."
Vogeler came back and had some long runs in a drive where Alexandria marched 85 yards that was capped off by Peck's one-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Vogeler had an interception on the first drive but answered with a 35-yard touchdown pass to David Krivanek that tied things at seven apiece late in the first quarter. That play came on fourth-and-13 as Krivanek got a step on the defender and Vogeler hit him in stride.
Stachowski made it 14-7 with a 20-yard touchdown run with 6:30 left in the half. Daniel Daffinrud then provided the Sabres with a big boost as he took the second-half kickoff the length of the field for a touchdown that made it a two-score game. The Cardinals were never able to fully recover from that as they dropped their second straight game to start the season.
"I feel like the team was too down," Peck said. "We just have to get better at coming back. The little mistakes are what killed us, like I said. That's what we have to eliminate. It was a close game to start, and we just got to execute and keep our heads up."