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Football team sees last second chance slip away

The Alexandria football team put a big scare into fifth-ranked Bemidji last Friday night before the Lumberjacks escaped in the final minute with a 35-34 win.

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The Cardinals (1-6) had a great chance to win it with 30 seconds left and the ball on the Bemidji 12-yard line. Head coach Mike Empting called one of his two timeouts he had left and set up a play to have his team center the ball to set up a game-winning field goal attempt by Jake Nienaber.

Unfortunately for Alexandria, the junior kicker never got the opportunity. Senior quarterback John Vogeler lined up under center for the play but the ball never got into his hands as a fumbled exchange was recovered by Bemidji to seal a one-point win for the Lumberjacks.

“This was one of the only games where I really saw it on them,” Empting said of the disappointment his players felt after the game. “They were doing so many things well. I told the guys, if there’s one thing that we take from this it’s we have to believe now we can play with the best. We took the number five team to the brink. Yes, the outcome is not what we wanted, but I hope that they restored some belief in themselves.”

The two teams put up some fireworks despite a driving rain that suspended the game for about 40 minutes in the second half. The Cardinals came out and took a lead after that when Vogeler found David Krivanek on an eight-yard touchdown strike with 8:22 left in the game.

Bemidji (6-1) responded on its next drive. Quarterback James Hendricks hit Ryan Hirt on a 13-yard touchdown pass that tied the game before the extra point by Will Annette proved to be the eventual game-winning point.

Alexandria dug itself into an early 20-7 hole before rallying and tying it at 20 apiece early in the third quarter. Vogeler accounted for all of the Cardinals’ touchdowns to that point as he ran in scores from 38, four and one yard out. 

The two teams went back and forth from there. Bemidji had a 23-yard touchdown pass and a safety that gave the Lumberjacks a 28-20 lead before Aaron Steidl had a 20-yard touchdown run that cut Alexandria’s deficit to two after a failed two-point conversion. Steidl added a two-point conversion after Krivanek’s touchdown in the fourth quarter to give Alexandria the six-point advantage.

Mitch Peck had a big day on the ground for Alexandria. The senior back finished with 142 yards on 32 carries, while Vogeler added 98 yards and the three touchdowns on 15 carries. Joe Gorghuber had eight tackles, a fumble recovery and an interception on defense. 

The Cardinals still made some of the mistakes that hurt themselves in this game. In addition to the late fumble, they also had a blocked punt that Bemidji recovered for a touchdown and eight penalties that cost them 67 yards. One thing they didn’t do is let that affect how they played on the next play.

“This was the most resilient that I have seen this team this year,” Empting said. “We still did those things that hurt us, but we bounced back from it time and time again. We were able to make a play or put a drive together to get right back in it.”

Empting hopes his players can carry that with them as they get set to host Fergus Falls (3-4) tonight, Wednesday, at 7 in what is the final home game the program will ever play at Citizens Field.

“I really think this team is kind of feeling it now,” Empting said. “That they’re starting to believe a little bit. We get another game to try and get something going into the playoffs. Then of course, [this field] has been historic, monumental and to win the last game out there I think would just be fitting.”


ALEX 7 6 7 14 – 34

TOTALS – Alexandria – Rushing – 52-265; Passing – 5-9, 44 yards; Fumbles lost – 1; First downs – 16; Bemidji – Rushing – 41-287; Passing – 7-13, 115 yards; Fumbles lost – 2; Interceptions – 1

ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE – Passing- Vogeler – Vogeler – 5-9, 44 yards, TD; Receiving – Mitch Peck – 1-0; Krivanek – 2-18, TD; Joe Gorghuber – 1-13; Rushing – Vogeler – 15-98, 3 TD; Peck – 32-142; Steidl – 3-21, TD, 2-PT; Jacob Vukelich – 1-3; Jeremiah Burnham – 1-1

ALEXANDRIA DEFENSE – Parker Bowden – 1 solo, 3 assisted, 1 forced fumble; Ben Kluver – 2 solo, 2 assisted; Gorghuber – 5 solo, 3 assisted, 1 fumble recovery, 1 interception; Riley Hvezda – 9 assisted, 1 pass breakup; Sam Helgeson – 3 solo, 4 assisted; Burnham – 2 solo, 3 assisted, 1 sack; Steidl – 4 solo, 4 assisted, 1 fumble recovery; Justin Cumberbatch – 3 solo, 5 assisted, 1 blocked kick; Parker Revering – 7 solo, 7 assisted, 1 fumble recovery; Nick Partington – 1 solo, 3 assisted; Jordan Karger – 1 solo, 2 assisted; Chris Leary – 2 solo, 3 assisted

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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