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Football: Cards look to get offense going against Sartell in home opener

Alexandria junior running back Blake Hoelscher gets into open space at Andover on Aug. 30. Hoelscher scored the Cardinals' only touchdown in the season opener last week on a three-yard reception from Matthew Carlsen. (Mark Ripley / Select Digital Memories)

Two teams that struggled to move the football in week one will get a chance to make amends for that against each other on Friday night in Alexandria.

The Cardinals got just one touchdown, a 5-yard pass from Matthew Carlsen to Blake Hoelscher, during a 26-7 loss to Andover on Aug. 30, but their opponent in the home opener that kicks off Friday night at 7 at AAHS is still looking for their first points. Sartell-St. Stephen was shut out in a 30-0 game against Cambridge-Isanti last week.

"Sartell struggled quite a bit, I think even more than we did on the offensive side," Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said. "To be honest, I think Sartell may have run into a similar situation as we did. I think Cambridge-Isanti is a really good team. We saw Cambridge at the NDSU team camp we went to this summer, and we were pretty impressed with them when we scrimmaged them."

The Alexandria coaches watched video of the Sabres season opener. Empting said senior quarterback Ryan Giguere stood out as probably the best athlete on the team.

"They use him in different ways," Empting said. "They run him with the football quite a bit. They run the option game with him and he throws it a little bit. I feel like he's definitely a better runner than he is a passer, but he'll be able to throw the ball."

Alexandria will try to bounce back offensively itself against the Sabres. The Cardinals put up 233 total yards against Andover, with Carlsen throwing for 160 of those on 15-of-30 passing in his varsity debut. Andrew Revering was his favorite target with nine catches for 85 yards.

The run game is where Alexandria struggled the most against Andover. The Cardinals put up 73 yards on the ground, led by 42 yards on 11 carries by sophomore Nolan Morical. That led to not being able to extend drives after the Cardinals went just 2-of-13 on third down conversions.

"To credit our offensive line in the opening game, we ran into a really good defense," Empting said. "Andover's defense is really big and physical up front. Our guys had their hands full for their first varsity experience for a lot of those guys. I think they grew a lot throughout the course of the game, and I think it will be better this game."

Empting is confident the whole team will improve in week two. He likes the playmakers on this team and is excited to get them a fresh start after playing what he believes was a really good Huskies team across the board.

"I think we'll move the ball. I feel like we have some playmakers," Empting said. "Matthew throws the ball really well, and he did some good things with his legs when he had to, as well. I thought (Blake) Hoelscher and Andrew Revering did some good things when they got the ball in their hands. I feel like Cody Branson is a threat down the field, as well. Taylor Jendro too. We got some guys at the skill positions I think can make things happen."

Defensively, senior Daniel Jantzen led the unit with nine tackles against Andover, including two tackles for loss. Wade Odland added eight tackles and Derek Pesta had seven.

Empting liked what the Cardinals did in week one on that side of the football. He's ready to get back on the field with this team and try to bounce back from a loss in the home opener.

"I think everyone is pretty excited to get the home game going," Empting said. "It's going to be Parents' Night for us. I love the atmosphere in our stadium. I think our fans are great, and we pack our home bleachers over there. We got great support here, and it's always good to be at home, be on the turf, home stadium, all those things going for us."

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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