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Hahn, Willmar provide big challenges on homecoming

The Alexandria football team will have to find a way to slow down a good offensive football team if it’s going to break a four-game losing streak in front of a homecoming crowd at Citizens Field on Saturday.

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The Cardinals are set to welcome in a 3-1 Willmar team that just handed Grand Rapids (0-4) a 45-0 loss last Friday night.

“They’re a very athletic team,” Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said. “Offensively, they do some things very well. Very tall wide receivers that can run, a quarterback who throws it really well and a running back who is very shifty. They’re a pretty well-rounded offense.”

Willmar put up 427 yards of offense against Grand Rapids, led by junior quarterback Augustine Hahn. He has taken over for former Willmar signal caller Alex Grove and hasn’t missed a beat in leading Willmar to three wins already.

“Any time you run a zone-read, shotgun-type of offense, everything runs through the quarterback,” Empting said. “It’s same there with Willmar. Last year, they had a good one in Alex Grove, and they just took the next kid and same thing. Good athlete, throws the ball well, makes good decisions, has a good running back next to him, but the bottom line is everything goes through him.”

Hahn dominated the game against the Thunderhawks with an almost perfect night passing. He completed his last nine throws of the first half and 11-of-13 overall through two quarters to put up 214 yards by the break. That led to a 36-0 lead that Willmar never came close to relinquishing. Hahn finished the night throwing for three touchdowns and running for one more.

The Alexandria defense will have to find a way to slow him and a Willmar offense down that has averaged a Central Lakes Conference South leading 35 points per game. Willmar has scored more than 42 points in three of its four games and its only loss came in a 21-7 game against 4-0 Brainerd.

The offense Willmar will throw at Alexandria is nothing this team hasn’t already seen before. Rocori ran the same thing last Friday and the Cardinals held them to 26 points, despite turnovers that set up the Spartans with great field position all night.

“I think the Rocori game was great preparation for our kids,” Empting said. “I thought they did a great job against Rocori, but we just kept putting them in tough situations. To only give up 26 points in that game was pretty remarkable for our defense given the position that they were put in. I think we’re in a good spot. We have good athletes on the field on the defensive side of the ball and our front guys are playing tough.”

Willmar’s defense has also been difficult to score on recently after allowing just seven points over the last two games. They are giving up 14.5 points per game and held Grand Rapids to just 82 yards of total offense.

Alexandria is trying to turn around a season that has started with four straight losses. The Cardinals have a chance to get things going at home with three of their final four regular-season games coming at Citizens Field.

This Saturday will be the final homecoming game on this field before the Cardinals open up the new high school next fall. The program is set to honor any of Alexandria’s former football players that choose to attend. All former players are invited, not just those who have played at Citizens Field.

There will be a table at the entrance gate for players to register and indicate the year they graduated. They will then be recognized at halftime of the game.

“I hope it’s a little extra motivation for the kids,” Empting said. “You hope they have a sense of where the program has been; that sense of traditions, sense of pride in the program. We talk to the kids all the time about the tradition and pride in the program. They’re going to be a part of the tradition. I hope that’s a little extra to light the fire. It seems like we’ve had some good days of practice here and got after it pretty good.”

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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