Alexandria football: Gaining ground on the OttersAlexandria ran for 257 yards against Fergus Falls in the Cardinals' 27-7 CLC victory.
By: By Eric Morken, Sports Reporter, Alexandria Echo Press
The Alexandria football team overcame a listless first quarter before using big plays on both sides of the ball to upend Fergus Falls at Citizens Field last Friday night.
The Otters came into the game trying to snap a 12-game losing streak. Through a quarter and a half, they looked capable of doing that. Fergus Falls took a 7-0 lead with a touchdown almost three minutes into the second quarter.
That served as a wakeup call to the Cardinals. They responded with two scores before the end of the half to take a 14-7 lead before going on to win 27-7.
"Fergus Falls came out ready to play," head coach Mike Empting said. "We talked about it as coaches, too. We were not sure in our pre-game that our guys looked like they were ready to go. We tried to push the buttons a little bit with them and get them fired up. But I don't know, I can't really explain it...the important thing is we bounced back and made plays."
The Cardinal defense gave the offense plenty of opportunities to get on the board. They created five turnovers on three fumble recoveries and two interceptions. Ethan Favor-Jackson was all over Otters' quarterback Zach Rengel with three sacks to go along with five tackles and a forced fumble. Brock Wood got the biggest of those interceptions late in the fourth quarter when he grabbed a tipped ball in the secondary and returned it for a touchdown to put the finishing touches on the win.
Alexandria's first score was set up by an Otters fumble deep in Fergus Falls territory. Cole Ellison took advantage of the turnover on the very first play when he connected with Erich Murphy on a fade to the back left corner of the end zone. Murphy went up and caught the ball over a defender for a 20-yard score that made it a one-point deficit after a missed extra point.
That was the first of three touchdowns on the night for Ellison. He connected with Parker Giroux on a touchdown pass out into the flats with 33 seconds left in the half. Giroux set that drive up with a 50-yard run on a second and long play that came right after a Fergus Falls sack.
Giroux took the handoff and broke through the line of scrimmage before making it to the right sideline for a big gain. A personal foul penalty on the end of the play set the Cardinals up for an important touchdown going into the half.
"It was big because the momentum was on their side," Giroux said. "They obviously scored first and they were going to get the ball to start the second half, so it was big for us to score. If we get stopped, they get the ball and then they get the ball again after halftime, so it was big for us to capitalize on that and score a touchdown."
That was just the beginning of a big night for Giroux. He topped the 100-yard rushing mark for the second straight game with 136 yards on 16 carries. Michael Joerger added 11 carries and 86 yards, while Ellison had 33 yards on eight carries. His biggest gain came late in the third quarter when he took the snap out of a shotgun formation and scored on a 24-yard run up the middle.
The offensive line continues to make progress for the Cardinals. Center Andrew Werk is the lone returning starter from that group, and he's happy with where that unit is at right now. He feels they will only get better as the season goes on. If they do their job, it's just a matter of time before Giroux or Joerger will make defenses pay.
"It's awesome," Werk said. "Just to know that if a play goes wrong or we miss a block, they can still make something out of it, at least get two or three yards. These guys are awesome. They can bust a play at any time and the defenses are always thinking about that."
That improved running game and an aggressive defense have been the keys to a 3-0 start for the Cardinals. After accounting for 139 yards on the ground against Willmar, Alexandria has run for 217 and 257 yards in the wins over St. Cloud Tech and Fergus Falls.
"The offensive line has been doing a great job," Giroux said. "Even if we get just two or three yards, I know the offensive linemen are working their butts off and they're pushing up front. It just takes time. If you keep getting two or three yard gains, you're bound to get a 50-yard one [eventually]."
The defense has also stymied the opposition through the first three games. The Cardinals have not allowed a second half touchdown. They have forced 13 turnovers already this season, including five each in the last two games.
"It's something that our kids take pride in," Empting said of the turnovers. "It's something we practice and it's paying off. It's guys being in the right spot in the secondary...on the fumbles, part of it is we're just playing aggressive. We're getting a lot of guys to the ball, getting hands in there and getting pads on the football and it's coming out."
The end result is the Cardinals are just one of two Central Lakes Conference teams with an unblemished record. Brainerd is also 3-0 after a 14-6 win over Sartell-St. Stephen last Friday night. That's right where this group wants to be entering the midpoint of the season.
"It's awesome," Werk said. "Guys are working their butts off, and we keep getting better. We can do a lot of great things with this team."
ALEXANDRIA 0 14 6 7 - 27
FERGUS FALLS 0 7 0 0 - 7
ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - Rushing - Parker Giroux - 16-136; Michael Joerger - 11-86; Ben Vickstrom - 2-2; Cole Ellison - 8-33, TD; Andrew Strater - two-point converstion; Logan Serum - 1/-2; Gideon Burnham - 1-2; Passing - Ellison - 2-8, 30 yards, 2 TD; Receiving - Giroux - 1-10, TD; Erich Murphy - 1-20, TD
DEFENSE - Felix Coleman - 1 tackle; Alex Bartels - 3 tackles, interception; Tanner Rice - 2 tackles, pass break-up; Jordan Domine - 3 tackles, fumble recovery, pass break-up; Nathan Nelson - 1 tackle; Steffan Morical - 7 tackles, sack; Brandon Hale - 3 tackles, pass break-up; Cody Brandt - 1 tackle; Charlie Wensman - 8 tackles; Brock Wood - 10 tackles, interception, TD; Andrew Strater - 11 tackles, forced fumble, sack; Ethan Favor-Jackson - 5 tackles, forced fumble, 3 sacks; Dillon Schauff - 2 tackles; Everett Fandrich - 1 tackle, fumble recovery; Ross Carlson - 5 tackles, fumble recovery
Alexandria defeated Fergus Falls for a 3-0 record so far this season
They are tied with Brainerd for the Central Lakes Conference lead
Other CLC_scores: Brainerd 14, Sartell-St. Stephen 6; Sauk Rapids Rice 20, St. Cloud Tech 17; Moorhead 23, Little Falls 13; Bemidji 28, St. Cloud Apollo 7; Willmar 41, Rocori 12