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Football: Cardinals ready for the rematch in Moorhead

Cole Crompton of Moorhead is chased down by Michael Empting (12) and Andrew Revering of Alexandria during their football game Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in Moorhead. The Spuds won that contest 47-20 and will host the Cardinals again in the opening round of the Section 8, Class 5A playoffs on Saturday. (Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor)

Alexandria football players got a day off the day after the regular-season finale in Moorhead, but the coaches gathered for a meeting with a 47-20 loss to the Spuds still fresh in their minds.

It was a chance to go over what happened the night before and put together a plan for that same Moorhead team on Oct. 28. The Cardinals were within one point in the third quarter against the Spuds (6-2), but couldn't overcome explosive plays from the Moorhead offense. Of the Spuds' seven touchdowns, five came on plays of 30 yards or more.

"We just gave up too many big plays," Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said after running the players through a light practice last Friday morning. "I thought defensively, we didn't play that badly in the first half minus three big plays. That has been something that has kind of haunted us all year. We just can't have those things happen. Second half, we did some things well too but too many big plays again."

A lot of those explosive plays came from Otis Weah. The Spuds' senior running back finished with 177 yards and three touchdowns on the ground and added two touchdowns and 81 yards receiving. Weah's touchdowns came on plays of 34, 1, 41, 8 and 52 yards.

"In the first half, we didn't do that bad a job against him," Empting said. "He just made some plays a couple of times. It was an opportunity, him and our guy, and he just beat our guy. Either beat him to the ball or broke a tackle. He's a good player. He plays with a lot of fortitude."

It's a problem every team has had to deal with this season. In the last five games alone, Weah has run 94 times for 1,123 yards and 13 touchdowns. Weah can run away from defenders, but he will gladly run through them as well if that's what it takes.

"We watched the video, and the guys watched and said, 'Well, he just wanted it more than I did,'" Empting said. "That's something that has got to change. If that means we have to change the guy or change the scheme, we're going to do that. We're not going to leave anything in the locker room heading into this game. We're going to do what we have to do to make sure we keep the season alive."

Empting said he believes these players are ready for the challenge of playing the Spuds a second time. The 10 days between games comes at the right time for the Cardinals as they used the break to get healthy.

"To be honest, our regular season was a grind," Empting said. "We got beat up with our numbers and the number of kids we have playing both ways. We have this 10 day break where some of our guys really need it. We got to get some spring back in our legs and get some bumps and bruises healed up."

Empting says he feels good about where Alexandria is at, despite coming into the playoffs on a two-game losing streak. The Cardinals have beaten some good teams this season, including 6-2 teams in Andover and St. Cloud Tech. The Tigers have responded to their loss to the Cardinals on Sept. 29 with three straight wins in dominant fashion.

All the teams in the Section 8, Class 5A field can boast similar ups and downs throughout the season. Top-seeded Brainerd, like Moorhead, is 6-2. The Warriors have head-to-head wins over Alexandria, Moorhead and fourth-seeded Bemidji. Their losses came in a 6-0 shutout against Sauk Rapids-Rice and a 45-6 blowout against St. Cloud Tech.

That leaves coaches in this section feeling like it's anybody's game when things kick off in the semifinals this Saturday.

"For sure the top three (can win it) and I wouldn't count Bemidji out of it either," Empting said. "Bemidji has a good team. They're physical. I don't think Brainerd is going to have an easy time in their first round. I just think it's going to be anybody's game. It should be an exciting playoff run. It's all teams that are pretty equal, and I think whoever comes out of our section will represent our section very well at the state level."


WHAT: Alexandria vs. Moorhead

WHERE: Moorhead

WHEN: Saturday, 7 p.m.

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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