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Alex football: Cards ready to break in the turf tonight

It took until two days before kickoff to get the assurance that the Alexandria football team will play its inaugural game in the new stadium at Alexandria Area High School this Friday, but it's a go.

It took until two days before kickoff to get the assurance that the Alexandria football team will play its inaugural game in the new stadium at Alexandria Area High School this Friday, but it’s a go.

The turf field has been ready for a while, but the construction of the track surrounding Viking Savings Bank Field meant nobody could access the field until this week. Head coach Mike Empting said his players were wondering if they would be playing there against Moorhead on Friday, but he was given the assurance in a conversation with activities director David Hartmann on Wednesday.
“I talked to Dr. Hartmann this morning and from the sound of it they’re at the point where we will be able to access the field from at least one side for sure,” Empting said. “So even if they don’t get the track part 100 percent complete, we will be able to access the field, so it sounds like we’re a go in the stadium on Friday night.”
That is a welcome relief for players, coaches and the community, but not knowing for a while could have been a good thing for the Cardinals. Empting said the anticipation level of opening the new stadium wasn’t really there for the team because of the questions surrounding the game.
That meant his players could focus entirely on preparing for the Spuds, a program that tends to always field good teams and is coming off a 7-4 season in 2013.
“The kids have been incredibly focused,” Empting said. “The focus has been on where it’s needed to be. Practices have been really good and the questions have been out there. The kids have asked, ‘Are we going to be able to play on that thing on Friday?’ They’ve been curious. I think once they get the word 100 percent, the anticipation will spike a little more.”
Moorhead will come into Alexandria tonight with a bit of a different look from the team that beat the Cardinals in the Section 8AAAAA opener last October. Senior 6’5” receiver Brett Laurence had 10 catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns that game. The Spuds’ senior quarterback Tyler Eidsness threw for three scores and 135 yards that night in helping his team to a dominant win.
The loss of those two and other talented players leaves Moorhead with some holes to fill. But Empting knows that this is a program that has the ability to reload after going 0-4 against the Spuds over the last two years.
“They’re a big school, well-coached team,” Empting said. “They got a lot of kids to draw from. They got their one running back returning from a year ago and they had a good sub-varsity squad. They graduated a lot of really good players, but I think they’re still going to be a very good opponent.”
Both teams come into tonight’s game competing against each other as well as the unknowns that go with playing in the season opener.
“The most difficult thing about the opening game is you’re not quite sure what to expect,” Empting said. “You can go on what they’ve done in years past but you never know from year to year. Are they going to change offenses because of personnel or change what they do defensively or something like that? I do expect them to be a very good first opponent, that’s for sure.”
Empting also said he feels his guys are ready for the challenge. The Cardinals had a scrimmage this past Saturday with Big Lake and perennial power De La Salle in attendance. That gave this team a good test before the real games start this week.
“We held our own against both those teams,” Empting said. “I thought we did some things very well in the scrimmage. I also thought we saw some things we clearly need to improve upon and we’ve taken that opportunity this week to work on those things. I think from a game-preparation standpoint we’re in a good spot.”
Empting often talks about using early games as a way to build toward the end of the season. Like every coach, he wants his guys to be playing their best football by the playoffs. He also knows this opener stands out as a special one with the dawn of a new era for Alexandria football ready to kick off at 7 p.m.
“I’ve always kind of said I don’t put too much stock into early season,” Empting said. “But I think this is definitely one, just because we’re opening a new stadium, new school, the whole Moorhead thing, who we’ve played four times in the last two years. I just think there’s a lot going on with this game. I think a win here would be big.”

WHAT: Alexandria vs. Moorhead football

WHERE: Alexandria Area High School

WHEN: 7 p.m. 

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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