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Alexandria football prepares for athletic Bemidji team

The Cardinal football team will be tested against one of the more athletic teams this group has seen all season tonight when Alexandria travels to Bemidji to face the 5-1 Lumberjacks.

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Bemidji is only a few plays away from being undefeated with its only loss coming in a 24-20 game against Brainerd last Friday. Warriors quarterback Thomas Stoxen hit Cole Harmer on a 19-yard touchdown. That proved to be the game winner for Brainerd in a battle of two teams that were ranked in the top five of the Class 5A polls going into the night.

“We’ve played teams who have been bigger, but these guys match up athletically to anyone we’ve played,” Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said. Their offense again, everything runs through their quarterback.”

Junior James Hendricks is the guy who makes this offense go. He can beat teams with his legs and his arms in a read-option offense out of the shotgun that allows him to make decisions. He also has talented skill-position players around him like running back Tanner Boes. Hendricks threw for a touchdown and ran for another against Brainerd last week, while Boes scored from six yards out to give Bemidji a lead in the fourth quarter.

“He manages the game really, really well,” Empting said of Hendricks. “And he has great skill-position players around him, a very good running back and good receivers.”

Empting said the Cardinals are starting to get healthy up front with sophomore center Dylan Larson expected to return to the lineup tonight. Senior Andrew Sheets is also starting to take reps in practice after missing a couple weeks with an injury.

“All those linemen we need to get back and give some others a break,” Empting said. “We need that added depth.”

Ultimately, Empting knows the best way to stay competitive with Bemidji tonight will be by controlling what they can control on both sides of the ball. That’s the mindset this team has taken with two weeks left in the regular season as the Cardinals try to build some momentum after getting its first win of the season against Grand Rapids last week.

“We got to take care of what we do,” Empting said. “If we go down there and take care of the football and possess the ball, don’t give them short fields. We don’t do things to hurt ourselves like pick up penalties to kill drives or turn the ball over; we’re going to be very competitive. I really believe that.”

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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