Football: Trick play downs Alex in AAHS opener
Moorhead senior running back Jade Lawrence offered up a suggestion to his head coach, Kevin Feeney, during a timeout with close to 30 seconds left and his team trailing by one on Friday night.
The Spuds had just gone backwards on two straight plays after getting all the way to the Alexandria six-yard line and needing at least a field goal to win it. A five-yard loss on first and goal and an 11-yard sack by Cardinals’ linebacker Nick Partington left Moorhead in a third-and-goal situation near the 20 yard line.
At that point, it was time for a little trickery. Quarterback Matt Bye hit junior receiver Tristen Nelson with a pass that he caught near the 10-yard line. Nelson was getting wrapped up but had just enough strength to lateral the ball perfectly to Lawrence, who ran toward the right pylon for the game-winning score in an 18-13 win for the Spuds in Alexandria.
“I actually recommended it to coach Feeney,” Lawrence said with a smile. “I did. He said if it’s not press coverage we run it, and we ran it and Tristen Nelson made a heck of a catch and held onto it. It was just a great all around effort on the last drive by our guys.”
That drive started at the Moorhead nine-yard line as the Spuds went 91 yards in five minutes, 37 seconds. Alexandria had held Moorhead scoreless on six straight possessions before that as the Spuds scored all 12 of their previous points in the first quarter. Alexandria had one final shot in the closing seconds but Jaran Roste’s Hail Mary was intercepted in the end zone by Colton Staton.
“It’s unreal,” Alexandria senior Joe Gorghuber said of losing on a trick play. “But we can’t take the play back now. We just have to look at how we played in the game. They were runners-up in the section [last year]. We fought great. It happens; it’s football.”
Alexandria head coach Mike Empting was more proud of the way his guys fought than disappointed with how it ended. The Cardinals knew their defense would be strong with a lot of experience back on that side of the ball. They proved that in the first game at Alexandria Area High School as they held Moorhead in check after a bit of a slow start.
“I’m real proud of the way our boys played,” Empting said. “It came down to a trick play, less than a minute to go and on a third and very long to go that I thought we had defended very well.”
Empting gave credit to Lawrence and Nelson for making a play when they needed to. Both teams made important plays on both sides of the ball throughout the night to make for a close game.
Alexandria got on the board with 2:31 left in the second quarter when sophomore quarterback Jaran Roste hit Gorghuber for a 14-yard touchdown. The Cardinals forced a three-and-out on defense and positioned themselves to score again before the half.
Roste scrambled away from pressure and found Gorghuber on a 26-yard strike as time expired. Alexandria thought it had tied the game, but a penalty for an illegal man down field negated the score.
Roste went to Gorghuber again in the fourth quarter to set up the Cardinals’ second touchdown. Gorghuber went up high to catch a 25-yard pass down the right sideline that positioned Justin Cumberbatch to run in a touchdown from two yards out. A Jake Nienaber extra point gave the Cardinals the lead at 13-12 with 6:08 left.
“We have some skill,” Empting said of an offense that he feels just needs some experience. “Jaran, I thought for a sophomore being in a game like that, under pressure a couple times, he did a great job of eluding pressure. He figured out later on to get rid of the ball…we had our young kids making plays for us, as well. Then Kris Setterstrom had some huge catches, Joe Gorghuber had some big catches. Travis Krueger as well, Brayden Amundson had a couple big catches.”
Gorghuber and Setterstrom both had plenty of big catches on the night. Gorghuber had five grabs for 98 yards and a score. Setterstrom caught five balls for 78 yards as Roste completed 16 passes for 233 yards, three interceptions and a touchdown.
“We moved the ball really well in short stints and then we had a rough start,” Setterstrom said. “Roste is a sophomore and that’s probably part of it but he’s going to grow. Throughout the game, you saw how much he grew. At the end of the game there we were moving the ball really well. I see a bright future for us.”
That seemed to be the feeling of players and coaches after the game. It was a tough way to lose, but Alexandria gained some confidence and even left an impression on the Spuds with how they played.
“They’re a good team,” Lawrence said. “They came back. They’re not going to quit, and it was a great ballgame. It’s a big wakeup call because coming into the game we knew they were going to be good, but we didn’t know they were going to be that competitive.”
The Cardinals were focused on building off of that instead of dwelling on how it ended as they head to Sartell on September 5.
“It sucks that we lost,” Gorghuber said. “We can’t do anything about it now. They were second in the section last year. We had them by the neck but just couldn’t pull it out.”
MOORHEAD 12 0 0 6 – 18
ALEXANDRIA 0 6 0 7 – 13
SCORING – First Quarter – Moorhead – Lawrence, 31-yard run; Extra-point blocked; Moorhead – Bye to Nelson, 20-yard touchdown pass; Two-point conversion failed
Second Quarter – Alexandria – Roste to Gorghuber, 14-yard touchdown; extra point no good
Third quarter – No scoring
Fourth quarter – Alexandria – Cumberbatch, 2-yard run; Nienaber extra point; Moorhead – Bye to Nelson catch, 10-yard run by Lawrence
ALEXANDRIA STATS – Passing – Roste – 16 completions, 233 yards, TD, 3 INT; Receiving – Gorghuber – 5-98, TD; Setterstrom – 5-78; Jacob Vukelich – 3-24; Amundson – 2-20; Travis Krueger – 1-13; Rushing – Vukelich – 7-7; Cumberbatch – 1-2, TD; Aarin Willander – 3-(-2); Micah Christenson – 3-(-3); Setterstrom – 3-7