Cards loaded with seniors as they head to Hutchinson for season opener on Thursday

Alexandria will try to build depth behind a big senior class as the Cardinals look to be a big factor in Section 8-5A by late October.

Alexandria senior Will Heydt runs through a drill during the first day of practice on Aug. 16, 2021. Heydt will be one of the primary ball carriers along with his duties defensively for the Cardinals this fall season. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)

The Alexandria football team has some top-end talent to work with this season , and the Cardinals will put that to the test right away.

Alexandria will make a nearly two-hour drive to Hutchinson in the season opener on Sept. 2 to face a Tigers team that went 5-2 last year playing out of Section 2-4A. Hutchinson cruised to a 44-6 win over St. Cloud Apollo, a fellow Section 8-5A team with Alexandria, in its 2021 season opener last week.

The Cardinals have a roster with 25 seniors this fall set to lead the way. It's a group that has no shortage of experience with many of those guys.

“Our challenge then becomes working in that depth,” head coach Mike Empting said on the team’s first day of practice on Aug. 16. “Getting those other kids the experience as we start, not looking ahead to next year, but developing depth for this year’s team. That’s going to be really important.”

The Cardinals will have to develop some of that depth along the lines where they lost some good players to graduation last year.


“I think we’re still trying to figure that out,” Empting said when asked who needs to step up along the lines to fill holes. “We have some guys we feel like can play there, but they’re going to be pulled in two different directions. They’re the same guys we might need on the other side of the ball too.”

Teagan Pfeffer (SE/CB) is a senior captain on this team with Will Heydt and Wyatt Odland who is eager to see guys get their chance up front.

“Everyone has been in the weight room this summer,” Pfeffer said. “Our line is small, but they’re fast, they’re strong and they like to hit.”

Alexandria senior quarterback Carter Steffensmeier releases a pass during practice on Aug. 16, 2021. (Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press)

Pfeffer, Heydt (RB/SS) and Odland (RB/LB) are part of the core returners for this group who bring with them a lot of experience at the varsity level. Carter Steffensmeier is back in his second year starting at quarterback, and senior receiver Kristen Hoskins is part of a talented group to throw the ball to that Empting believes will cause defenses a lot of problems this fall.

Alexandria is back in Section 8-5A with Bemidji, Moorhead, Sartell, Sauk Rapids-Rice and St. Cloud Tech. Those programs always make for a competitive section tournament, and the Cardinals expect that again this season. But they are confident they can be right there playing with the best teams come late October.

“It’s been a conversation with us for a long time about our senior year because we thought our group had a lot of potential throughout,” Odland said. “You look at this team, it’s really senior heavy, and I think the expectations should be high. Section title, go to state -- I think that’s all within the spectrum for our team.”



SENIORS - Gavin Ashmore, TE/CB; Mason Teaser, SE/CB; Will Heydt, RB/SS; Dayton Downing, LB; Teagan Pfeffer, SE/CB; Grady Anderson, FS; Myles Sansted, K; Wyatt Odland, RB/LB; Carter Steffensmeier, QB; Kristen Hoskins, SB; Damian Ayala, SS; James Schwartz, RB/LB; Logan Biggar, LB; Zach Gundberg, SE; Turner Haar, SB/CB; Evan Schroeder, LB; Gabe Evink, G/T; Dakota Giese, T/T; Zander Homelvig, T/DE; Maxton Meyer, G/LB; Clayton Birdsall, C/T; Calen Piepho, C/T; Joseph Lanoux, T/DE; Ethan Hoppe, T/T; Devin Cimbura, DE

JUNIORS - Chance Boyer, RB/SS; Kelly Johnson, SB/FS; Jaxon Schoenrock, SE/CB; Max Hess, SE/CB; Ashton Sayre, TE/DE; Landon Seward, RB/SS; Bryr Homelvig, RB/LB; Hunter Athey, SE/CB; Joe Moga, SE/CB; Cody Vatnsdal, TE/LB; Gavryn Fernholz, T/DE; Jordan Nicholson, G/DE; Ashton Schlosser, T/DE; Mitchell Chilian, G/T; Evan Strand, T/DE; David Rauscher, C/T; Owen Kuehl, SE/FS; Cole Vatnsdal, SB/LB

SOPHOMORES - Drew Gundberg, SE/CB; Fiyin Taiwo, SB/LB; Bralyn Steffensmeier, SB/CB; Jasper McDaniels, SE/FS; Sam Williams, SE/CB; Evan Moore, QB/FS; Mason McGrane, SE/CB; Miles Skillings, SB/SS; Walker Hennen, RB/LB; Brayden Staples, SE/LB; Andrew Flaten, RB/SS; Venald Becker, SB/LB; Jacob Lanoux, SB/LB; Carter Simonson, RB/SS; Dawson Roderick, SE; Kandin Ahrendt, T/T; Thadeous Anderson, C/T; Ian Winter, T/T; Robert Kohout, G/T; Landon Raths, G/LB; Hayden Logan, T/DE; Garcia Pierre, T/T; Joey Van Roekel, G/T; Sawyer Rumohr, T/DE; Ethan Hunt, T/T; Gavin Engelbrecht, C/LB; Kory Anderson, SE/FS; Kadyn Weber, SE/FS

FRESHMAN - Daniel Jackson, K


Sept. 2 at Hutchinson, 7 p.m.

Sept. 10 vs. Bemidji, 7 p.m.


Sept. 17 at Sauk Rapids-Rice, 7 p.m.

Sept. 24 vs. Moorhead, 7 p.m.

Oct. 1 at Brainerd, 7 p.m.

Oct. 8 vs. Sartell, 7 p.m.

Oct. 15 at Elk River, 7 p.m.

Oct. 20 vs. St. Cloud Tech, 7 p.m.

Oct. 26 Section QF, TBD

Oct. 30 Section semifinal, TBD

Nov. 5 Section final, TBD

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
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.
What To Read Next
The Alexandria boys swim and dive team ended the regular season on a good note with a 110-75 win over St. Cloud Apollo and will now prepare for the Central Lakes Conference meet.
Alexandria and West Central Area-Ashby-Brandon-Evansville each picked up a win on Thursday.
The Osakis boys basketball team dominated in a game against St. John's Prep, while the WCA teams earned wins and the B-E girls pulled out a win over Rothsay.
Alexandria earned a handful of personal bests in its win over Sauk Rapids-Rice on Thursday.