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Grand Rapids close to must-win for Alex football

Two teams desperate for a win will battle at Citizens Field tonight as Grand Rapids comes to town looking for its first victory as a member of the Central Lakes Conference.

Both teams are 0-5 right now and the Thunderhawks’ closest game came in a 34-20 loss at Moorhead on September 13. Grand Rapids’ average loss has come by 30 points, and the Cardinals know they need this one on their home field.

“Yeah, definitely,” head coach Mike Empting said of the need to win a game like this. “It’s there. You can feel it. It’s palpable.”

Empting said he met with his seniors this week and talked to them about staying the course after a disappointing start. He’s been happy with their response this week in practice after the 55-21 loss to Willmar on Saturday afternoon.

“I keep telling them, ‘Boys, I keep waiting for it to happen,’ ” Empting said. “I feel like we’re a heartbeat away, and I guess this is as good a time as any…They’ve been resilient. They’re still supporting the coaches and standing behind one another. They recognize what’s going on. They know. The kids have been great. Attitudes have been great at practice.”

The game against Grand Rapids could be an opportunity for the Cardinals to get going offensively. The Thunderhawks are allowing 38.2 points per game this season and have yet to hold a team to less than 34 points.

“It’s still going to come down to we just have to quit making mistakes, beating ourselves,” Empting said. “I thought our game with Willmar we kind of got handled a little bit up front, but up to that point I think we had been doing things to kind of beat ourselves.”

Empting says it won’t matter who the opponent is if they don’t clean those things up at home this Friday night.

“If you don’t show up offensively, if you don’t block players, they’ll make plays,” Empting said. “They have a quarterback and a running back that are very capable offensive players, so our defense has still got to be solid on their assignments. We’re going to have to tackle well. Tackling is something we struggled with the last game. Then of course, we have to take care of the football. We just can’t turn the ball over. Offensively, if we take care of the football, don’t make mistakes to beat ourselves and we tackle, then it’s going to be great night for us on Friday.”

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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