Football: Homecoming victory
The Alexandria football team has been on the wrong side of its fair share of close games this season.
Now Rocori knows how that feels. The Cardinals picked up their first win of the season at homecoming this past Saturday in dramatic fashion.
Alexandria scored two touchdowns in the final 1:20 to turn a 19-14 deficit into a 29-19 win at Citizens Field.
With a five-point lead and the ball late in the fourth quarter, the Spartans just needed a couple first downs to put the game away. But the Alexandria defense held strong and forced Rocori to punt with 1:35 remaining.
That is when Karl Brezina made the play of the game. The Cardinals came with the punt block and it was Brezina who came clear and blocked the punt for his team. Walker Giroux picked up the ball and returned it to the Spartans' one-yard line.
Colin Erickson wasted no time completing the comeback as he followed the push of the left side of his line to score the winning touchdown.
Rocori still had two timeouts and just more than a minute remaining. The Cardinal defense had played well all day and on the first play of the Spartans' ensuing possession, Dillon Kelly stepped in front of an Adam Backes pass and intercepted the ball, returning it inside the Rocori 15-yard line.
Matt Peterson then scored his second touchdown of the game to put the finishing touches on the Cardinals' first win.
It was a total team win for the Cardinals. They ran the ball for 186 yards and three touchdowns, and Erickson completed 6-of-11 passes for 73 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions.
The defense swarmed to the ball all day, led by Chase Bukowski's 16 tackles. He also recovered a fumble for the Cardinals.
Alexandria knew it would have to slow down Rocori's Nick Schneider if they were going to pick up a win. The Cardinals' defense did just that, holding him to 83 yards rushing on 15 carries. Alexandria had two or three players on him almost every time he touched the ball out of the backfield.
It was a back-and-forth game for four quarters between these two teams. Rocori struck first on a 20-yard touchdown pass, but the Cardinals would answer in the second quarter. Kelly set up Alexandria's first score with a 73-yard scamper down the left sideline. That brought the ball down inside the 10-yard line before Peterson punched it in from four yards out.
Trailing 13-7 in the third, Erickson orchestrated a nine play, 85-yard drive where he carried the ball six times and completed two passes. Both those completions were to Kelly who took the second one 20 yards down the right sideline and stretched the ball over the goal line to tie the game. Charlie Warnes' extra point gave his team the 14-13 lead.
That lead held up until six minutes to go in the fourth quarter when Schneider set up a Rocori touchdown with a run down inside the Cardinals' five-yard line.
Alexandria's next drive started off with a 32-yard completion to Connor Illies that brought the ball inside the Spartans' 25. The Cardinals' offense stalled, though, as the ball was turned over on downs.
That is when it looked like Alexandria would come up just short again. But a quick defensive stop set up the heroics for Brezina and the Cardinals' special teams.
The win is a big one as Alexandria gets set to head on the road this Saturday for a 3 p.m. game against Brainerd. The Warriors represented the Central Lakes Conference in the state tournament last year.
They have not taken much of a step back this season. The Warriors come into the game with a 4-1 record. Their only loss came in week one at St. Cloud Tech.
ROCORI 7-6-0-6 - 19
ALEXANDRIA 0-7-7-15 - 29
ALEXANDRIA LEADERS - OFFENSE - Rushing - Matt Peterson - 13-69, 2 TD; Dillon Kelly - 4-79; Charlie Olson - 1-(-3); Parker Giroux - 3-14; Mitch Telles - 4-19, two-point conversion; Colin Erickson - 15-8, TD; Passing - Erickson - 6-11, 73 yards, TD; Receiving - Dillon Kelly - 3-35, TD; Connor Illies - 1-32; Joe Hurlbut - 1-2; Zac Beireis - 1-4
DEFENSE - Tackles - Chase Bukowski - 16, fumble recovery; Ross Thompson - 9, 1 pass break up; Charlie Olson - 6, 1 forced fumble, 1 blocked PAT; Dillon Kelly - 4, 1 fumble recovery, INT; Isaac Meyer - 9, 1 pass break up; Walker Giroux - 4, 1 blocked punt recovery; Zac Beireis - 5; Steve Conley - 5; Karl Brezina - 2, blocked punt; Craig Hedstrom - 2; Steven Carlsen - 2; Tom Bouressa - 1; Connor Illies - 1
SPECIAL TEAMS - Punts - Dylan Carlson - 5 punts, 23.2 average; Kicks - Charlie Warnes - 4 kicks, 55.3 average, 3-for-3 PAT's; Kick Returns - Dillon Kelly - 1-14; Matt Peterson - 2 returns, 29.5 average