Card football: Gridders still perfectAlexandria shut out St. Cloud Apollo 18-0 for a 4-0 record
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
By Eric Morken
Alexandria head football coach Mike Empting knew his defense would be good heading into the 2010 season, but this good?
The Cardinals created five turnovers for the third straight game on their way to an 18-0 win over St. Cloud Apollo last Friday night. Alexandria has allowed just seven points in those three games on its way to a perfect 4-0 start.
Steffan Morical created two of those turnovers against Apollo with an interception and a fumble recovery. Felix Coleman had a pick, while Max Flowers and Everett Fandrich each had a fumble recovery.
“Our guys on the defensive side are playing really well,” Empting said. “We knew coming into the season we would be good. It’s something the coaches and the kids worked on, is forcing turnovers and being aggressive to the football. That was going to be a point of emphasis, and the kids are just playing it really, really well.”
The Cardinals made life miserable for an Apollo team that was hoping to win its second game in the last two years. The Eagles threatened to score on their opening drive but never really threatened again after that drive ended in a turnover. They crossed the 50-yard line just once after that as the Alexandria defense held them to 153 yards of total offense.
The Cardinal offense rewarded their effort with three touchdowns in the final five minutes of the first half. Parker Giroux started the scoring with a 12-yard touchdown run before Cole Ellison made it a 12-0 game from one-yard out on the ensuing possession. Michael Joerger then capped off the flurry with a 10-yard touchdown run that gave his team all the momentum heading into the break.
“I wasn’t as worried about doubt creeping into our kids’ heads as I was about hope creeping into Apollo’s,” Empting said. “A team like that, they are searching for something, a bit of hope. I think it was big for us to have a lead going into the half and establish ourselves again.
“Not to take anything away from Apollo. They are very well coached this year, and they are definitely going to be competitive. I think they have a chance to pick up a few more wins this year, but I just knew that if we executed and played our game, we were going to be the better team that night.”
The Apollo defense made things difficult for Alexandria at the start. The Eagles have been able to stay in games this year, thanks to their level of play on that side of the ball. That was again the case as the Cardinals struggled to find the end zone through a quarter and a half of play.
Alexandria has proven all season that it just needs a spark to start a fire on offense, though. The Cardinals got that spark from Giroux, who put together his third straight 100-yard rushing game. He finished with 142 yards on 26 carries.
“Parker was the big rusher this week,” Empting said. “I thought we blocked much better this week. We had some other running plays where we were one block or one cut away from ripping off another big one. We are in a good place right now, offensively. Our offensive line is coming together really well. Those guys were always aggressive and always physical, it was just a matter of them coming together.”
The whole Cardinal team has come together nicely since its dramatic 22-21 win over Willmar in the season opener. Since then, Alexandria has won three games by a combined score of 69-7.
The Cardinals will put their perfect record on the line against a good Bemidji team this Saturday afternoon on homecoming. The Lumberjacks will be the best team Alexandria has faced to this point. They are 3-1 and are coming off a 33-28 loss against Brainerd last week.
“They had their chances to win that one,” Empting said. “Bemidji is playing really well and we knew coming into this season that they were going to be one of the more difficult challenges on our schedule.”
The Cardinal defense will get its toughest challenge to date against the Lumberjacks. They haven’t been held to less than 28 points in a game this season. The opportunity to make a statement will be there in front of a packed house at Citizens Field.
ALEXANDRIA 0 18 0 0 – 18
APOLL 0 0 0 0 – 0
ALEXANDRIA LEADERS – OFFENSE – Rushing – Parker Giroux – 26-142, TD; Michael Joerger – 7-16, TD; Ben Vickstrom – 1-0; Cole Ellison – 11-21, TD; Andrew Strater – 1-5; Ben Ferrel – 2-5; Logan Serum – 1/-16; Gideon Burnham – 1-7; Passing – Ellison – 1-11, 6 yards; Receiving – Joerger – 1-6
DEFENSE – Felix Coleman – 3 tackles, interception; Alex Bartels – 4 tackles; Ben Vickstrom – 4 tackles; Steffan Morical – 8 tackles, fumble recovery, interception, pass break-up; Brandon Hale – 3 tackles; Gideon Burnham – 1 tackle; Michael Joerger – 1 tackle; Charlie Wensman – 3 tackles; Brock Wood – 11 tackles; Andrew Strater – 6 tackles; Max Flowers – 3 tackles, fumble recovery; Ethan Favor-Jackson – 7 tackles, forced fumble; Matt Sheets – 1 tackle; Everett Fandrich – fumble recovery; Ross Carlson – 5 tackles