Card football: Last second lossLittle Falls scores conversion for 32-31 victory
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
A game filled with big plays and a couple controversial calls was decided by both last Friday night as Little Falls scored in the final seconds to win a wild 32-31 contest against the Alexandria football team.
Little Falls took control of its last offensive possession with 1:12 to go, trailing by seven. The Flyers gave themselves a chance by working the ball down the field to the point where they could take multiple shots at the end zone.
All of those shots failed until they were down to their last try with a little more than 20 seconds left. On fourth and 10 from the 22-yard line, quarterback Spencer Fenske stepped up in the pocket and brought the ball down like he intended to take off. He instead found Elliot Kohler in the front of the end zone as the Cardinal secondary started to collapse on Fenske. Alexandria coaches felt he delivered the ball after he crossed the line of scrimmage. The refs said he was right at the line and ruled it a legal pass.
“I don’t know,” head coach Mike Empting said. “I gotta watch the video, but I think our kids did the right thing. I think the quarterback flushed. Like I said, I have to see the video yet, but it looked to me like we should have been closing on the quarterback. He was the run threat. I think we did the right thing.”
The Flyers went for two on the ensuing extra point. They brought Brian Majerus in motion to the right side on a pick play. The Cardinals never picked him up as Fenske found him wide open in the right, front corner of the end zone for what turned out to be the winning points.
Alexandria almost pulled off a miracle on its final play of the game. Parker Giroux went up and got a Cole Ellison pass in a crowd of defenders. Giroux shook a tackle and almost outran another defender before he was tackled out of bounds near the 12-yard line. The Little Falls sideline erupted as Giroux stayed on the ground and held his hands to his helmet after falling short for the third-straight game.
“I think we’re all pretty down,” he said. “You start off 4-0, you don’t expect to lose the next three. So I think we’re all pretty down. We had a good week of practice. We kind of changed up our practices a little bit, and we changed up our pre-game. We thought it would help, but I don’t know. Just didn’t come out on top.”
Alexandria looked like it might run away with things early. The Cardinals led 17-7 at the break, and the Flyers’ only touchdown came on a trick play when Zach Horejsi connected with Josh Wenzel on a 31-yard halfback pass.
Things turned for Little Falls almost six minutes into the third quarter. Horejsi struck for a 63-yard touchdown run that cut Alexandria’s lead to three. The Flyers scored again 17 seconds later when a fumble by Giroux was picked up by Horejsi and returned 30 yards for the go-ahead score.
“That was big, no doubt,” head coach Mike Empting said. “But with that being said, we still rallied back and took the lead.”
The Cardinals did not wait long to answer. They scored on their next drive when Michael Joerger ran over a couple Little Falls’ defenders on his way to a 25-yard touchdown run.
Little Falls again had an answer on its next drive. The Cardinal defense stood tall on third and goal at the two, which forced the Flyers to kick the tying field goal.
Alexandria was driving for the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter when a controversial turnover halted their momentum. Ellison scrambled out of the pocket and found Joerger near the 10-yard line with an underhanded pass as he was being pressured. Joerger got his hands on the ball and was tackled almost simultaneously. The ball came out and Little Falls recovered what the refs ruled was a catch and then a fumble.
The Cardinal defense got the ball back a few plays later. Senior safety Felix Coleman stepped in front of a Fenske pass near midfield and intercepted it. He returned the ball back to the Flyers’ 23-yard line. On the very next play, Giroux took the handoff and broke through a big hole on the right side before making the safety miss for the go-ahead touchdown.
It was the last of three touchdowns on the day for Giroux. The senior back tormented the Flyers all night, finishing with 186 yards rushing on 18 carries and 82 yards receiving on just two receptions.
“It was an 18-buck sweep,” he said of the final scoring play. “I was going around the outside, and I saw a lot of the defense flowing, so I cut back and it was just the safety up top. I just had to make him miss.”
His Alexandria teammates mobbed him as he came to the sidelines after what looked like would be the winning score. The Flyers had other plans as Fenske’s play in the final seconds gave his team its third win of the season.
The loss was a tough one for Alexandria to take on Senior Night. The Cardinals fall to 4-3, which sets up an important game against Moorhead as they try to get back in the win column before playoffs start next week.
“I just think we need to take it one step at a time,” Giroux said. “We need to break it down and see what’s going wrong on defense, see what’s happening on the offensive side. We’ve just got to break it down and make sure we’re all doing our own job.”
LITTLE FALLS 0 7 14 11 – 32
ALEXANDRIA 10 7 7 7 – 31
TEAM STATISTICS – Alexandria – Rushing – 45-322; Passing – 5-12, 114 yards; Fumbles lost – 2; Interceptions – 1; First downs – 16; Little Falls – Rushing – 34-195; Passing – 10-23, 142 yards, fumbles lost – 2; Passes intercepted – 2
ALEXANDRIA INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS – OFFENSE – Rushing – Giroux – 18-186, 3 TD; Joerger – 15-83, TD; Ellison – 12-53; Passing – Ellison – 5/12, 114 yards, interception; Receiving – Giroux – 2-82; Joerger – 2-19; AJ Anderson – 1-13
DEFENSE – Coleman – 10 tackles, interception; Alex Bartels – 1 tackle; Tanner Rice – 2 tackles; Jordan Domine – 7 tackles, 1 pass break-up; Steffan Morical – 7 tackles; Brandon Hale – 3 tackles, 1 fumble recovery; Joerger – 1 pass break-up; Charlie Wensman – 3 tackles, QB sack; Brock Wood – 7 tackles; Andrew Strater – 9 tackles, interception; Ethan Favor-Jackson – 7 tackles; Zack McKay – 1 tackle; Everett Fandrich – 3 tackles; Ross Carlson – 7 tackles
SPECIAL TEAMS – Punt returns – Giroux – 2-16; Kick returns – 4-29; Brock Wood – 2-12; Punting – Tanner Rice – 3-111; Kickoffs – Gavin Schmidt – 6-286, 47.7 average; Kicking – Nick Knoblach – Extra points – 4-4, field goals – 1-1