Alexandria’s Dylan Ledman couldn’t have known a year ago what kind of a role he would be playing for the Cardinal football team’s defense during the fall of 2014.

Ledman wasn’t even here at the time. He moved to Alexandria this school year from Libertyville, Illinois. It’s been a comfortable transition for the junior middle linebacker both on and off the field.

“It wasn’t hard at all,” Ledman said of the move. “It was fairly easy because everyone here is so nice and welcoming. It was easy to get to know everyone and get to know my teammates.”

Ledman came into Alexandria’s program ready to make an impact after playing football in Illinois. Listed at 5’7” and 157 pounds, he isn’t the biggest guy at his position but his ability to put himself in the right spots helps him rack up tackles.

“He caught on very quickly to what we are doing defensively but is continuing to learn,” head coach Mike Empting said. “Dylan is very coachable and works very hard. He wants to do well and his work ethic reflects that. He asks good questions. Dylan is the type of player that when you tell him something once, you can see him out there working to get it right immediately. He is a real joy to work with.”

It took Ledman a little time to work his way into a starting role this season. After leaving an impression on the coaches, he got his first start against Rocori in week four when he slid into the linebacker spot and senior Justin Cumberbatch moved to the offensive side of the ball at running back.

“He had seen action in the previous games spelling Justin and had done a great job, which is what made us feel good about moving Justin to offense and moving Dylan into the starting linebacker position,” Empting said. “He has a knack for finding the ball, and I think his size makes him difficult to block inside at times.”

It’s a move that has paid dividends on both sides of the ball. Cumberbatch has averaged 8.7 yards per carry on offense while leading the team in rushing with 771 yards and nine touchdowns. Ledman has been equally as impressive on defense as he went into last night’s playoff opener against St. Cloud Tech leading the team in tackles with 63.

“It’s a lot of fun,” Ledman said. “There are a few things I need to brush up on technique-wise and reading my keys, but once I get that down, I think I can be more successful.”

Empting noted after a win against Willmar in week five that Ledman was already good at putting himself in position to make plays by understanding his responsibilities. Ledman was a part of 15 tackles, including nine solo, to go along with a sack in the win over Willmar.

He continued to pile up the tackles in the ensuing weeks. Ledman had a team-leading 12 takedowns against Bemidji in week seven and had one of Alexandria’s three interceptions in a 33-6 win over Fergus Falls last Wednesday. He was part of a Cardinals’ defense that came out ready to get back on track against the Otters after giving up 60 points against Bemidji the week before.

Alexandria had multiple guys around the ball throughout the night against Fergus Falls as Ledman led the way with 12 takedowns. Joe Gorghuber and Nick Partington each added 11 tackles and Grant Hockert finished with eight.

It’s exactly the way this team wanted to go into the playoffs and something Ledman said this defensive unit was hoping to build on with a physical St. Cloud Tech team on tap last night.

“I think Bemidji lit a fire in our stomachs and we’re ready to go into the playoffs stronger,” Ledman said last Wednesday. “The trick to going far in the playoffs is getting our technique down better and then we’ll become unstoppable.”