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Cards ready to roll in season opener

The Alexandria football coaches guarded against the heat this week by not practicing in full pads leading up to their season opener in Moorhead tonight.

Turns out that was much to the dismay of the players who are itching to get into a game setting for a season that features a new feel in a lot of different ways.

"They're not making any secret about it," Empting said. "They want to get rolling. Mention the game and it initiates some chatter from those guys. It's been hot this week, so we haven't gone full pads. Every practice, they're asking, 'Can we go full pads?' They really want to play the game."

Having Moorhead on the schedule isn't unusual, but having them as a part of the Central Lakes Conference is. The Spuds, along with Grand Rapids and Bemidji, joined the CLC this season to now form a North and South Division. Moorhead, Alexandria, Grand Rapids, Bemidji, Brainerd and Fergus Falls make up the North half, with Rocori, St. Cloud Tech, Sartell-St. Stephen, St. Cloud Apollo, Sauk Rapids-Rice and Willmar making up the South.

"I don't think there's a balance of power," Empting said. "I think it's loaded to the North with the bigger schools, with the exception of Tech being in the South...It's going to be challenging for us, but it is what it is, and we're going to line up and play the team that's put on our schedule. I've never been one to get too upset about our schedule because the bottom line is you have to beat the best anyway if you're going to win a conference or a section title."

The Cardinals won't waste any time getting a challenge from what Empting expects to be another good Moorhead team. The Spuds lost some talented players off of last year's state tournament team. Most notably from that is running back Chase Morlock, who is now a freshman football player at North Dakota State University.

"I think an athlete like Chase Morlock is a pretty special player," Empting said. "I think it's difficult to replace a kid like that. Having said that, I don't think there's any doubt that Moorhead will be able to put together a quality football team this year. They're a big school. They have great numbers, and they're very well coached."

Empting feels his kids will be ready for the challenge. He liked the way they moved the ball with their new offense in a scrimmage against Sauk Rapids this past weekend.

He's also seen his players take things upon themselves when it comes to preparing for this season. The captains in Mitch Peck, John Vogeler, Parker Bowden and Aaron Steidl have led extra conditioning after a lot of practices leading up to the season. Almost 30 guys took it upon themselves to do extra running on a 90-degree day this past Monday. That's the kind of leadership Empting wanted to see from this group of upperclassmen as they get set to kick off a new season tonight.

"As a coach and a guy who played it, I love this game and love coaching the kids," Empting said. "That's really refreshing for me to see that. I've had individuals in years past do those sort of things, but it just seems like there's a bigger group of kids, almost like all the juniors and seniors. That's contagious, too. They're fired up. They're excited and ready to go."

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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