Slow start costs Alex football in opener
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
St. Cloud Tech came into Citizens Field on Friday night as one of the favorites in the Central Lakes Conference.
The Tigers then went out and played like it as they built a 21-0 lead by the half and held on for a 28-13 win over Alexandria.
Cardinals head coach Mike Empting knew there might be some early jitters with his young team, and that proved to be the case. Alexandria turned the ball over three times in the first half.
Perhaps the biggest came after Tech had taken a 6-0 lead. The Tigers lofted the ensuing kickoff into an open area and jumped on the loose ball to take over possession deep in Alexandria territory. The Tigers wasted little time taking advantage of the break as they scored to take a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Both of those early touchdowns came on halfback passes before star running back Jacob Peterson punched one in from inside the five yard line late in the half to make it 21-0.
"We've got underclassmen out there on that unit," Empting said of the early onside kick. "They know the ball is live, but to know it and to react to it [with it being their] first time, opening game, first live action, that kind of thing. Those are two different things."
Those young players seemed to calm down a little bit as the game went along. Junior John Vogeler was making his first varsity start at quarterback and admitted he was a little timid at the start.
Vogeler threw a first-half interception but came back nicely in the second half. He connected on a beautifully thrown fade with Mitchell Thompson in the front, left corner of the end zone to make it a 21-6 game early in the fourth quarter. That was the first play from scrimmage after junior Aaron Steidl had intercepted a pass deep in St. Cloud territory.
Peterson was just too hard to bottle up in the end. The shifty senior put together a couple big runs on the Tigers' ensuing drive before quarterback Jay Kedrowski connected with Philip Amundson on a touchdown pass that all but put the game out of reach with 8:30 left.
"They got the number one halfback in the conference," Vogeler said of Peterson. "He's flat out an amazing runner. He's got amazing speed. He's got great potential. They have a good line, good receivers, good quarterback. They're going to go somewhere this year."
Team speed was evident all over the field for the Tigers. They had three or four guys to the ball on seemingly every play on defense. Vogeler said he knew he needed to get the ball out quick, but Tech made that difficult to follow through on for most of the night.
"They were really athletic," Empting said. "They had tremendous team speed on the defensive side, but on top of that, they got a lot of guys to the football. It wasn't just one or two guys who were tracking the football. It was everybody getting there."
Vogeler was able to show off his athleticism for his team's final score late in the fourth quarter. He got flushed from the pocket and tip-toed along the right sideline before leaping over a diving defender and into the end zone.
It was too little, too late, but it helped Alexandria outscore the Tigers 13-7 in the second half. Those are the little things that a young team will use to move forward heading into week two.
"We'll get better as we go along," Vogeler said. "This was the first game. We know what we need to work on, and we'll go from there."