Football: Cardinal rally falls short in overtimeA two-point conversion fails and the Cards fall in the Section 8AAAA championships
By: Lori Mork, Alexandria Echo Press
By Lori Mork
Sometimes, it’s about taking risks.
The Cardinals, who had watched Sauk Rapids-Rice go for the two-point conversion three times during regulation – in fact, knew that they nearly always go for two after a touchdown – decided to take that risk. They went for their own two-point conversion instead of kicking the extra point after scoring first in overtime during the Section 8AAAA championship Saturday.
It didn’t work.
Sauk Rapids-Rice stuffed the run, then went to work, scoring on a 6-yard third down attempt as Erik Bjork caught the last of his three passes for the day from Alex Schueller. The Storm knew they didn’t need the two-point attempt, especially after having been stymied twice by the Cards. They instead relied on one of the weakest links in the Storm’s offense – the extra point kick. This time it worked.
“There were several factors that went into my decision to go for two in overtime, but basically it came down to, Sauk hadn’t kicked a PAT in three games that we knew of, so we thought they would go for two if they scored,” said head coach Mike Empting. “If we go for two and get it and they do also, we play another overtime, if we get a hold on downs or on the conversion we win.”
Alexandria came out on the losing end in the 8AAAA final for the second straight year, this time falling to the Storm 27-26 in an all-or-nothing battle at St. John’s University in Collegeville.
That loss was especially heartbreaking considering how hard the Redbirds worked to come from behind and push the game into overtime.
Down 20-0 with less than two minutes remaining in the first half, the Storm had all but shut the door on the Cardinals. They held the Alexandria offense in check through most of the first half, especially in the second quarter when they put together a 19-play, 85-yard drive that used nearly the entire clock and allowed the Cardinals just two offensive plays.
Things were looking dismal. That is, until Cardinal senior Parker Giroux found a crack in the Storm’s wall and ran the kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown, giving Alexandria new life.
“The kick return really gave us a spark going into the half,” Empting said. “We spent the half going over adjustments that we were going to have to do in the second half to be successful, both offensively and defensively.
“The kids did an amazing job of responding and playing what we explained during the half. We got a couple good breaks that allowed us to score quickly and get back into it early in the second half, that gave our kids a good lift, too.”
That touchdown lit a fire under the Redbirds, who dominated the second half both on offense and defense. They took advantage of three fumbles by Sauk Rapids-Rice - two of which were inside the 20 – and put two more touchdowns on the board.
The first came with just 4:38 remaining in the third quarter as Alexandria recovered the ball on the Storm’s 19-yard line and the Cards worked their way to the seven where Michael Joerger punched the ball in for the second Alexandria touchdown of the day. The extra point kick failed, leaving the Cards trailing by seven with a quarter remaining.
Another turnover, this time a bobbled snap on a punt attempt, gave Alexandria the ball on the 8-yard line. After a 5-yard penalty put the Cardinals on the 13-yard line, Giroux ran the ball in with 8:56 remaining in regulation. The Cards extra point kick was good, tying the game.
Sauk Rapids-Rice still had an opportunity late in the quarter as the Storm, on a third-and-5 situation, got the ball into Aaron Sutliffe’s hands. Sutliffe, who totaled 90 yards rushing for the day, scrambled for the first down, but fumbled the ball and the Cards recovered on their own 20-yard line with 1:41 to go.
But the Storm defense held firm, forcing the Redbirds to punt the ball as they went three-and-out, turning the ball back over to the opposition with 47.4 seconds to play.
Sauk Rapids-Rice decided to go for all the marbles on that last drive and quarterback Alex Schueller put the ball in the air.
It was then that the Cards picked up their only interception of the game, and gave themselves another chance with overtime.
The Storm won the coin toss and opted to play defense, and the Cards chose to put the wind at their backs on offense.
It didn’t take long for Alexandria to get on the board. Giroux took the ball in from the 10-yard line on the second play from scrimmage, putting Alexandria up 26-20. And that’s when things went south.
“Both teams played their hearts out, and that is the way a Section final should go,” said the Cardinal head coach. “Sauk Rapids is a good team and are well coached and they made one more play than we did on that day.”
Giroux ran for 59 yards and three touchdowns for the Redbirds, while quarterback Cole Ellison had 35 yards on seven carries as Sauk Rapids-Rice held Alexandria to 108 yards rushing and no yards through the air.
Alexandria ended its season with 7-4 overall record.
SAUK RAPIDS 14 6 0 0 7 — 27
ALEXANDRIA 0 7 13 0 6 — 26
SRR – Aaron Sutliffe 25-yard run. Sutliffe run.
SRR – Alex Schueller 12-yard run. Run failed.
SRR – Sutliffe 1-yard run. Run failed.
ALEX – Parker Giroux 95-yard kickoff return. Nick Knoblach kick.
ALEX – Michael Joerger 5-yard run. Kick failed.
ALEX – Giroux 13-yard run. Knoblach kick.
ALEX – Giroux 9-yard run. Run failed.
SRR – Erik Bjork 6-yard pass from Schueller. Schueller kick.