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Football: Cardinals to get a good test at Andover on Thursday

Alexandria's Mike Empting gives direction to his team during a practice on Aug. 14. Empting and the Cardinals will start the season on Thursday night as they travel to Andover to take on a Huskies team that went 8-3 a year ago. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

The Alexandria football team won’t ease into things during its season opener on Thursday night when the Cardinals make a more-than two hour trip to Andover.

The Huskies are a perennially tough program that went 8-3 a year ago before losing a shootout against Elk River in the state tournament. One of those three losses came to Alexandria in the season opener during a 34-28 game. Both the Cardinals and Huskies lost a lot of their primary players from last year to graduation, so Thursday’s opener will be a good test for both programs to see how prepared a bunch of new players are for the season.

“I’m sure a lot of those guys who are going to be playing for them saw some action last year. I think we’re going to be, not necessarily younger but just a little bit more inexperienced,” Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said. “But on both teams, the majority of the horses have graduated and they’re both trying to establish their identity and figure out who can play where.”

Like the Cardinals, Andover lost talent at quarterback, running back and receiver. The offensive lines for both teams also have to be restocked.

“Schematically, they’re the same team,” Empting said. “Their offense is going to be a zone and power run-pass option, very similar to what we run. They’ll spread us out and try to get the football to their athletes in space. Defensively, they’ll run an odd front and they’re going to run to the ball. They’re athletic.”

Empting learned a little bit about his own team this past Saturday on a day when almost every program across the state held scrimmages.

“I felt overall it went pretty well. Our first scrimmage, I think we had to adjust to the speed of an opponent coming at us and competing against us,” Empting said. “I think once we adjusted to that, we did pretty well.”

This week, it has been focusing on Andover. Empting is confident his guys know what the Huskies will run at them. On Thursday, it’s a matter of adjusting to game speed.

“Staying on blocks and making tackles. Just adjusting to how fast is their back, how big is their back, how fast are their receivers coming at us? What kind of arm does their quarterback have? Those types of things that we just aren’t sure of yet.”

It will be a long road trip to play in front of an opposing crowd for an established program like Andover. It should all add up to a good opening test for the Cardinals.

“Andover is a big school. They have a lot of kids to draw from,” Empting said. “They have a strong tradition, are very well coached and they looked good in their scrimmage video. I have no reason to believe they're not going to be a very formidable opponent again.”

WEEK ONEWHAT: Alexandria at AndoverWHEN: Thursday, Aug. 30 at 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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