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Card football preview: Alexandria gets second shot at Rocori

Eric Morken, Echo Press Senior tight end AJ Anderson turned upfield while fighting off a defender against Sauk Rapids. Anderson and his Cardinal teammates will try to punch their third straight ticket to the section title game tomorrow when they take on top-seeded Rocori.

The Cardinal football team's season has taken a positive turn since the last time Alexandria met Rocori in week six.

The Spartans got the win that Saturday afternoon in a 21-12 game that dropped the Cardinals to 1-5. Alexandria's seniors led an emotional huddle in the north end zone after the game. They had just battled the eventual top seed in their section to the brink, but senior Steffen Morical implored his team to stop being content with almost getting it done. It was time to get over the hump.

The Cardinals have responded by winning three straight since. Now they will get a chance to avenge a game that got away from them on one big play by Spartans' quarterback Nate Meyer in the fourth quarter.

"Rocori is a great team," Morical said after a 42-16 win over Sauk Rapids on Tuesday. "We got to know it's going to be a battle. They're the No. 1 seed. They had the bye right away...they have a powerful offense. We found that out right away when we played them last."

The Spartans were ranked No. 10 in the final 4A polls after going 7-1 during the regular season. Their only loss came almost two months ago against Brainerd in week one.

Rocori gave up 28 points in each of the first two games but hasn't allowed more than 14 in a game since. Opponents are averaging just 7.6 points per contest over the final six weeks of the regular season against them. It is a team that will present a solid challenge for an Alexandria offense that will come in after putting up its highest point total of the season against the Storm.

"It's a good opportunity for us," head coach Mike Empting said. "With them last time, we took them right to the brink. Our kids played really well. I'm excited about the match-up. It's a good team, but it's a good opportunity for us too."

Rocori should be ready for an Alexandria team that is playing its best football of the season. The Cardinals ran for more than 300 yards against Sauk Rapids on Tuesday night. They will face a stiffer task tomorrow in a Rocori defense that has a lot of athletes all over the field.

"They're well coached," Empting said. "They're going to have their kids ready to play. They're going over video from our last game, and I'm sure they have scout video on us too. We're not going to sneak up on anybody."

The key will by trying to slow down Meyer. The Cardinals did that throughout most of the their first match-up against the Spartans. The senior quarterback was held to just 75 yards passing that afternoon, but provided the biggest play of the game with his legs. His 68-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter made it a two-possession game after Alexandria had rallied to make it 14-12 in the second quarter.

"He's their guy," Empting said. "Either throwing the ball or running the ball, we gotta make sure we control him. That's for sure."

If they can, the Cardinals believe they have a chance to pull off the upset and reach their third straight section title game.

"I'm pumped," senior tackle Jesse Hacker said. "Last time we played them, we had them. I think that game was a winnable game for us. We kind of killed ourselves and brought ourselves down. It's going to be a physical game, and we're going to bring it right at them."

Follow #AlexMN @EchoPress Sports Reporter Eric Morken on Twitter at @echo_sports.

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Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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