Card football preview: CLC leader Rocori comes to Alexandria tonightCards must look to slow down Spartan offense
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
Things don’t get much easier for the Alexandria football team tonight after taking on the No. 5 ranked team in Class 4A last week.
The Cardinals saw first-hand the kind of athletes Bemidji has at the skill positions in a 35-6 loss to the Lumberjacks last Friday. Now they have to deal with a similar style of offense from a Rocori team that has won four straight games after dropping a 28-20 game at Brainerd in the season opener.
“We’re going to see more of the same from Rocori that we saw from Bemidji,” Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said on Wednesday. “They run that spread option game. It all starts and ends with their quarterback. Their quarterback is very good. I think he’s kind of the one that makes that offense go for them.”
Senior quarterback Nate Meyer has taken his play to another level for his team this season. He has led a resurgence at Rocori after the Spartans finished with a disappointing 2-7 record a year ago.
Meyer tossed two touchdowns and threw for almost 200 yards in a 34-7 win over Fergus Falls last week. He is the engine behind a Rocori offense that is leading the Central Lakes Conference in scoring at nearly 29 points per game after averaging just 14.6 per game a season ago. That has this team tied atop the league with St. Cloud Tech and Brainerd at 3-1.
“They’re basically the same athletes,” Empting said. “They’re just a year older and have gotten better. You look at these kids, and they clearly had a good off-season because their kids are bigger and faster. Their quarterback is smarter. He runs that offense a lot better.”
Alexandria won a 34-6 game in the opening round of the Section 8AAAA playoffs the last time these two teams met. Miserable conditions with strong winds mixed with steady snowfall made it almost impossible for Rocori to run its shotgun offense that night. That won’t be the case this time around with temperatures expected to be in the mid-60s around kickoff tonight.
Empting said his team will rely on a similar approach as the one it took in Bemidji to try and slow down Rocori’s offense. The Cardinals were able to sustain some long drives against the Lumberjacks to keep their offense off the field. Included in that was a 23-play drive that took more than 12 minutes off the clock. That kept Alexandria in the game through two and a half quarters before penalties kept the Cardinals from keeping their offense on the field down the stretch.
“We have to try and execute a similar game plan,” Empting said. “We got to keep Rocori’s offense off the field and sustain drives. Have those 10, 12, 15-play drives and then finish them off. Get them in the end zone.”
At 1-4, the Cardinals are searching for any way to get a win. A win over a 4-1 Spartans team could go a long way toward boosting this team’s confidence as they inch closer to the playoffs.
“Honestly, at this point, any win right now would be great,” Empting said. “But definitely knocking off a team like Rocori – I have a similar approach as I had last week. This is a great opportunity for our football team. They are having a good season, playing with a lot of confidence. This is a great opportunity for us as a team to knock off somebody that’s playing well.”