Football preview: Gridders host EaglesThe Cardinal football team and St. Cloud Apollo will both be looking for its first win of the season tonight, Friday, when the Eagles travel to Alexandria in a key early season Central Lakes Conference battle.
By: By Eric Morken, Sports Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
The Cardinal football team and St. Cloud Apollo will both be looking for its first win of the season tonight, Friday, when the Eagles travel to Alexandria in a key early season Central Lakes Conference battle.
The Eagles are coming off a 1-8 season in 2007. It is a record they felt was not indicative of the talent they put on the field.
Apollo vowed that this year would be a different story. So far, though, the results have been the same. The Eagles’ lone win last season came in an upset over Rocori at the end of the season.
The Eagles had a chance to make it two in a row over the Spartans when they opened the season against them three weeks ago, but Rocori took care of business with a 25-9 win. Apollo followed that up with a 44-7 loss the next week against Sauk Rapids-Rice.
“My main concern is that they are in the same boat we are in – 0-2 and looking for their first win,” Cardinal head coach Mike Empting said. “They are going to be hungry to pick up that win. We cannot take this game lightly. We are very close to being a good football team, and we have made great strides in the last two weeks. We have to continue to build on that and keep getting better each game.”
Both Alexandria and Apollo come into the game hoping to break out on offense. Alexandria is still in search of its first 100-yard rusher this year. Through two games, the Cardinals are averaging 114.5 yards per game on the ground with Matt Peterson, Dillon Kelly and Parker Giroux splitting the carries.
Quarterback Colin Erickson also has 23 carries on the season, but it is his left arm that has done most of the damage for the Cardinals. Erickson has thrown all four of the touchdowns for his team so far this season. His main target has been Conner Illies, who has 128 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
“We just need to execute better offensively,” Empting said. “We have good plays and the kids are playing hard. We are just having too many missed assignments. We also have to be better on first down to get us into a second and/or third down in a manageable situation where we can open up the playbook a little bit.”
For the Cardinals, the struggles have come in the second half where they have failed to score a point this season. A lot of that has to do with the fact that they have not had the ball a lot in the second half. Alexandria ran only seven plays in the third quarter against Moorhead and it had a hard time stopping Sauk Rapids in the final half of the opener.
“We have to be able to make a play to get off the field on third down,” Empting said. “It has been that down when we have given up a play to keep the drive alive for our opponents. We have not been [manhandled] by either team and the games have been close. We need to be mistake free.”
The matchup between the Eagles and the Cardinals will be the first since the 2005-06 season. Alexandria won that contest 34-20 in the opening game of the season.
The outcome of this year’s matchup will be key, with no team wanting to fall to 0-3 on the year. A loss for the Eagles would drop them to 0-3 in the CLC this season, which should make them all the more hungry to pick up the win.
“We cannot afford to take an opponent lightly,” Empting said. “Apollo has a very good interior defense. They have two good defensive tackles and two good inside linebackers that we have to be sure to get blocked each play. They run a similar offense to that of Sauk Rapids, lots of misdirection. Our defensive discipline will be put to the test.”