Card football: Gridders run over Tech 24-0The Cards scored two late touchdowns to secure their second victory
By: By Eric Morken, Sports Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
The Cardinal football team used a dominant defensive effort to get its second win of the season on a rain-soaked night at St. Cloud Tech last Friday.
Alexandria was happy with a 22-21 win over Willmar in its season opener but knew there was room for a lot of improvement. The Cardinals saw that improvement in almost every facet of the game in a 24-0 win over the Tigers.
“I was tremendously excited about the win,” head coach Mike Empting said. “Especially going to Clark Field. That field is probably one of the biggest home field advantages in the conference in my opinion. It’s a pretty intimidating venue if your kids aren’t ready for it. The kids totally blocked out the distractions, the students being right on top of them, and concentrated on playing the game.”
The defense was dominant, holding the Tigers to just 123 yards of total offense. They collected five Tech turnovers on four fumbles and an interception from Felix Coleman. Andrew Strater was all over the field with 14 tackles. Ross Carlson highlighted the night by forcing a fumble before picking up the ball and scoring a touchdown from seven yards out in the fourth quarter.
“Ross Carlson in the middle is solid for us,” Empting said. “He just hunkers down the middle for our defense. He really frees up our linebackers by taking on blocks. Our ends, Ethan Favor-Jackson and Everett Fandrich just had solid games containing the quarterback.”
What made the defensive effort more impressive was that it came against a huge offensive line that is considered one of the best in the Central Lakes Conference. The Cardinals used their athleticism up front to stuff the Tigers’ running game, holding them to just 90 yards on 37 carries.
“That was exciting,” Empting said. “Especially as highly touted as Tech’s offensive line has been. They are pretty high on them over there. For our kids to show up and shut down their running game says a lot about the athleticism of our kids.”
The five turnovers gave the Alexandria offense plenty of chances to put the Tigers away. Gavin Schmidt gathered two of those fumbles, while Charlie Wensman recovered another.
The offense showed their appreciation in the second quarter with a 15-play scoring drive. That possession took about seven minutes off the clock before Michael Joerger capped it off with a three-yard score.
That was just the beginning of a big day for the Alexandria running game. A young offensive line for the Cardinals made vast improvements from week one. They helped Alexandria run for 217 yards on 44 carries. Parker Giroux had a big day with 144 yards and a 39-yard touchdown run that made it 12-0 going into the half. Joerger ran the ball 14 times for 93 yards and two scores. His final touchdown put the finishing touches on the win when he shed a couple tackles on his way to a 23-yard score in the fourth.
“We knew we had good skill position guys coming back,” Empting said. “But we lost a lot up front from last year. There were some question marks, but these guys are making this team their own. You can start to see an identity come about. That’s the exciting part. Every year it’s different. This team is starting to come together.
“It was a huge step forward from a week ago from our offensive line as far as being on our assignments. We were blocking with more authority. If they keep developing and keep coming along, it could make for an exciting season.”
Empting was happy with how his team handled the soggy conditions. The rain got heavier as the game went on, making it harder and harder to hang onto the ball. Alexandria lost two fumbles, but Tech could do nothing with them.
The Tigers’ best chance at scoring came early in the fourth quarter when Bryant Amundson broke a long touchdown run that was called back because of a personal foul penalty. That would have made it a 12-6 game. Instead, the Cardinals responded with two more scores to put the finishing touches on their second straight CLC victory.
“I thought we had the type of team that would keep getting better as the season goes along,” Empting said. “We got two big wins against teams that I think are going to be pretty competitive in our conference. We are going to be entering the midpoint of our season pretty soon here, and like I said, our young players are getting experience and gaining confidence. It’s going to be exciting.”
ALEXANDRIA 0 12 0 12 – 24
ST. CLOUD TECH 0 0 0 0 – 0
ALEXANDRIA OFFENSIVE LEADERS – Rushing – Parker Giroux – 15-144, TD; Michael Joerger – 14-93, 2 TD; Ben Vickstrom – 2-1; Cole Ellison – 9/-29; Andrew Strater – 2-6; Ben Ferrel – 1-1; Brock Wood – 1-1; Passing – Cole Ellison – 1-4, 12 yards; Receiving – Giroux – 1-12
DEFENSE – Felix Coleman – 3 tackles, interception; Alex Bartels – 3 tackles; Tanner Rice – 2 tackles; Jordan Domine – 1 tackle; Steffan Morical – 9 tackles; Brandon Hale – 1 tackle; Gideon Burnham – 2 tackles; Charlie Wensman – 7 tackles, fumble recovery; Brock Wood – 7 tackles; Andrew Strater – 14 tackles; Ethan Favor-Jackson – 5 tackles; Gavin Schmidt – 2 fumble recoveries; Everett Fandrich – 3 tackles, 1 sack; Ross Carlson – 4 tackles, 1 fumble forced, 1 fumble recovery, TD
SPECIAL TEAMS – Punt returns – Giroux – 3-52, 17.3 average; Kick returns – 1-15; Punting – Tanner Rice – 5-170, 34 average; Kickoffs – Gavin Schmidt – 5-217, 43.4 average