Card football preview: Alexandria looking for first win SaturdayAlexandria will host St. Cloud Apollo for homecoming at 3 p.m.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
By Eric Morken
The Alexandria football team will find out what it’s made of when it wraps up homecoming week in what has become as close to a must-win situation as a team can be in through the first three weeks of the season.
The Cardinals need to get things going in a positive direction after falling to 0-3 with a 28-14 loss in Fergus Falls last Friday. They will welcome in another 0-3 team in St. Cloud Apollo for tomorrow’s 3 p.m. kickoff. It is a game this team feels it needs to get as it tries to battle through the adversity of the first three weeks.
“We’re going to find out what we’re all made of here this Saturday against Apollo,” head coach Mike Empting said on Tuesday. “I hate to use the term ‘must win’ but at this point, it is what it is. It’s homecoming – great crowd, great day. We got to come out and [play well].”
The three losses have all but eliminated them from the Central Lakes Conference picture, but the Cardinals still have plenty to play for over the final five weeks of the regular season. Ultimately, this team always wants to be playing its best football as it enters the playoffs. There is still plenty of time to do that.
“As coaches, we have to do what we need to do to make this a learning experience for the kids as far as what we need to do better, where did we let the game get away from us?” Empting said. “How are we going to get better? You just can’t beat them up too much over a loss. There has to be some learning that happens. Figure out the ways you have to get better, but then move on from there.”
It all starts against an Apollo team that has lost 11 straight games since a 13-6 win over Fergus Falls in last year’s season opener. The Eagles throw a lot of different looks at the opposition on defense and use multiple formations to try to confuse teams on offense. Senior Nam Nguyen got the ball 19 times last week and led his team with 118 yards rushing.
Apollo has struggled mightily on the other side of the ball. The Eagles have given up an average of 53 points per game in losses to Fergus Falls, Foley and Bemidji.
Alexandria wants to add to those totals as it tries to build on some of the positives it saw against Fergus Falls. The Cardinals ran for 277 yards against the Otters last week. They switched things up in the second half by moving out of the shotgun and playing more under center in a traditional power running game with multiple backs in the backfield.
Empting gave the ball to his seniors in the final two quarters and asked them to make a play. Logan Serum, Steffen Morical, Gideon Burnham and Brock Wood combined for 47 carries as Wood led the way with 110 yards and two touchdowns.
The Cardinals were able to sustain some long drives with that approach. They scored on a 15-play drive to start the second half and put together other drives of 10 and 14 plays.
“I think we figured out some things against Fergus Falls,” Empting said.
That has helped his team keep a positive attitude leading up to this Saturday’s game against the Eagles. Empting said his team had a great practice on Monday and that his seniors will do all they can to make sure this season doesn’t spiral out of control.
“Our goal at this point is win them out, finish 5-3 and be playing as best as we can in the playoffs,” he said. “If you get hot at the end of the season, that’s all that matters. Where we’re at right now, it’s not like we got handled by any of our opponents. We were in every one. It’s such a fine line between a win and a loss that sometimes it can be a little bit deceiving.”
Empting’s confidence in his players has not wavered through their slow start. He believes he has the talent to get things turned around through the rest of the regular season. It needs to start tomorrow in a winnable game against Apollo.
“I agree,” he said. “We need to find a way to get this one. We got to go out and play well. If our kids just concentrate on playing well, playing mistake free football…I like to focus on the process rather than the result. If we can go out and play hard, be mistake free, be sharp, execute, be good tacklers, then hopefully we’re going to have the final result we’re looking for.”