Alexandria football preview: Cardinals face another dominant back in MoorheadThe Spuds' Chase Morlock will pose a tough challenge for the Alexandria defense.
By: Eric Morken, Alexandria Echo Press
The Moorhead football team probably won’t use a lot of deception on offense when the Spuds welcome Alexandria into town tonight.
There isn’t much need for trickery when a team has a senior running back who can consistently run over and around opponents. That’s exactly what the Spuds have in Chase Morlock.
“I think this is going to be a stark contrast to what we have seen lately in that they rely on pretty much one running back to get the majority of their work done on offense,” Cardinals head coach Mike Empting said. “He’s a big kid, and he’s got good speed for his size. It’s going to be a different type of challenge and one we haven’t seen for a while.”
Morlock has piled up yards for a Moorhead team that is ranked fifth in the 5A polls and is looking to move to 7-0 tonight. He accounted for all three touchdowns in a 19-15 win over Buffalo last Friday. Morlock caught five balls for 114 yards and ran for an additional 140 yards. That came a week after he ran through the St. Cloud Tech defense for 210 yards and three touchdowns.
“They’re different offensively than we have seen in dealing with those zone-read, option types of teams,” Empting said. “These guys actually run an offense that is almost identical to what we run when we run under center.”
Empting knows that familiarity doesn’t mean it will be easy to stop. Moorhead averages more than 36 points per game and is beating teams by almost 15 a contest for a reason.
Slowing the Spuds down will likely have a lot to do with how long Alexandria’s offense can stay on the field. The Cardinals have shown an ability to piece together long drives this season. They had scoring drives of 15 and 16 plays against Bemidji on Friday night.
The Cardinals just want to be able to do that more often. Two turnovers in the second half and penalties throughout the night hurt their chances at doing that. In turn, that hurt the defense, which was forced to be on the field too often after halftime against the Lumberjacks.
“This entire season, we’ve struggled on both sides of the ball, but we’ve had more challenges on defense,” Empting said. “When we have the ball, we have to sustain drives. We have to hang onto the football and take pressure off our defense. It’s pretty hard for a team’s offense to score standing on the sidelines. We have shown we can [sustain drives]. We’ve had 15-16 play drives in every game this season. We just have to be more consistent.”
That means being able to run the football without any drive-killing mistakes. Empting felt his offensive line was the strength of this team coming into the season and nothing has changed his mind about that. The key is not making any mistakes that put the team in tough down-and-distance situations.
“When we hand the ball off, I have the confidence that our offensive line will get a good push, and we’ll get three or four yards a crack,” Empting said. “If you do that consistently, that’s a lot of first downs every three plays. The caveat to that is if you get a negative play thrown in there, it’s difficult to come back from…there’s a lot of factors that go into how we’re doing things on the offensive side. The bottom line is we’re going to go with what we do best. Right now, under center running the football is what we do best.”
Players show no quit
Empting said his players are doing everything they can to turn things around over the final two games of the regular season. The Cardinals are naturally disappointed with how things have gone to this point, but they haven’t let that affect how they practice coming down the stretch.
“Hat’s off to these kids,” Empting said. “They come out every day and work super hard. They’re focused, coachable; they’re doing everything they can to turn this thing around. This isn’t where any of us hoped or envisioned we would be at this point, but they’re working hard. It’s safe to say that coaches and players are working their rear ends off and working together to try and get this going in the right direction.”