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Cards like a lot of what they saw against Spuds

If fans just looked at the yardage in Alexandria's game against Moorhead last Friday night, they would probably assume the Cardinals came out with a win.

Alexandria ran for 228 yards and threw for an additional 132. The Cardinals outgained the Spuds by almost 100 yards on the night. The problem was finishing off those drives with touchdowns.

Two turnovers and penalties kept them from putting points on the board a few times. It also helped the Spuds work on a short field on two of their scoring drives on the way to a 28-12 win on opening night.

"I think we got more comfortable as the game went along," head coach Mike Empting said of the offense. "We did some things really well. I'm not satisfied with the outcome, but we put up 360 yards of offense. We just have to finish now. Not turn it over. Not have those penalties and then when we get down in there, be as sharp as we were moving the ball to that point."

Senior quarterback John Vogeler had a big game running the read-option for the Cardinals against Moorhead as he carried the ball 26 times for 176 yards. He threw for an additional 132 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 8-of-20 passing.

Fans can expect him to get a heavy workload again tonight as the Cardinals open the home portion of their schedule against Sartell-St. Stephen. Empting knows Vogeler can score from anywhere on the field, like he did with a 77-yard touchdown run against Moorhead, when he keeps the ball himself. But carrying the ball 26 times does come with a little risk for a player Alexandria can't afford to lose to injury.

"I'm not sure how I feel about it," Empting said. "I think he weathered the game just fine aside from some normal bumps and bruises, and I think John's a smart player. There were some times when he ran with it, got to the open field and he had a choice. He could cut it back into traffic or take it out of bounds and avoid some hits, and he took it out of bounds."

That's why Empting is hesitant to try to limit the carries of one of his most dangerous players.

"This offense, it's all about what is the defense going to make you do," Empting said. Get it out of the quarterback's hands or make the quarterback carry it? If they're going to keep it in John's hands...that 77-yard run, there were two kids who had angles on him and he split them both and ran away. He's fast. He really flashed some speed on that run for sure. Mitch Peck has got the same capability, so I don't know. We have to keep him healthy, that's for sure."

Peck finished with 61 yards on 19 carries against Moorhead and senior tight end Aaron Steidl led the receivers with three catches for 61 yards. Kris Setterstrom made his one catch count as Vogeler connected with him on a 12-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Alexandria's athletes were able to be on display a little bit, but their lack of size also showed up against a strong Spuds team. Moorhead used that strength up front to help Jade Lawrence to 94 yards and a touchdown, while the Spuds did everything they could to establish the running game. Quarterback Tyler Eidsness only threw six times but he made the most of them, completing every pass on his way to 91 yards and a 53-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter.

"We're just not very big up front, minus Aaron Steidl, who's got great size," Empting said. "Our kids are just going to have to learn that they have to play with a very low pad level up front. They pounded at us with that running game, and I thought our kids time and time again answered the bell. I thought they were out there giving it all they had."

That's why Empting was encouraged as the Cardinals get set to welcome in the Sabres tonight. Sartell is a young team that fell 14-0 against St. Cloud Tech in week one.

It's still really early, but both teams know it's an important game on the schedule as they try to avoid falling to 0-2.

"I hate to put too much weight on one game, especially on an early-season game," Empting said. "But I do think it is important for a lot of reasons that we come out and play well and end up on the right side of the scoreboard for this one."

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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