The Sartell-St. Stephen football team accomplished something it hasn’t done since Oct. 29, 2016. The Sabres won a football game.
Alexandria was the victim of a 30-21 win that ended the Sabres’ 25-game losing streak on a snowy Friday night. It was a game filled with plays the Cardinals would like to have back.
"I think we have definitely played better than we did tonight," head coach Mike Empting said. "We will go look at the video, but we missed some assignments. I don't think we executed on either side of the football or on special teams as well as we could have. I don't want to take anything away from Sartell. They played hard, and they had a good game plan. It's high school football."
Alexandria started the scoring when quarterback Matthew Carlsen connected with sophomore wide receiver Kristen Hoskins for a 41-yard touchdown pass. Sartell answered with a 61-yard touchdown pass from Cole Hentges to Gustav Gunderson. Late in the first quarter, the Sabres took a 14-7 lead when Andrew Ambrosier ran seven yards for a touchdown.
Midway through the second quarter, Cody Branson gave Alexandria a spark with a 57-yard interception returned for a touchdown. The game was tied 14-14 heading into halftime.
Ethan Torgimson put the Sabres up a touchdown with a three-yard run. A gutsy two-point conversion call to let Hentges run the ball on a quarterback keeper paid off as Sartell took a 22-14 lead in the third quarter.
Alexandria responded early in the fourth when Nolan Morical punched in a six-yard touchdown run. Sean Haak’s extra point cut the Sabre’s lead to one.
Hentges found tight end Jacob Bjelland in the end zone to put the Sabres up 28-21 late in the fourth quarter. Another two-point conversion run by Hentges secured the win for Sartell as Alexandria dropped to 5-2.
"They were very physical," Empting said. "They had a nice inside-outside running game that kept us guessing. They played very solid defense. Weather conditions narrowed us a bit on offense. We still threw the ball fairly effectively, but it was difficult. They loaded the box on us to force us to throw the ball, and it was tough tonight. They played stingy defense and took the ball away from us a couple of times."
Alexandria outgained Sartell by 72 yards but had trouble converting on third down (2-10). Carlsen threw three interceptions in 27 pass attempts.
Sartell limited Alexandria’s dominant run game to 148 yards. Morical led the Cardinals with 122 yards and a touchdown.
Even with the wind howling and the snow-covered field, Empting isn't pinning the loss on the harsh conditions.
"I would never say that the weather was going to decide a game," he said. "It alters gameplans and those types of things, but both teams have to play in it. We've known this was coming all week. We planned for it, but didn't execute as well as we needed to against a pretty determined team."
Despite a frustrating loss, Empting didn't see any signs of a letdown.
"I don't think we were overlooking them. I would've felt that in our week of preparation," Empting said. "I thought our preparation was pretty good this week."
With a short week ahead, Alexandria will travel to Sauk Rapids-Rice (1-6) on Wednesday for the final game of the regular season.
"It's a quick turnaround," Empting said. "In football, usually you have to wait a week to go out there again and set things straight. We'll have a couple of days of practice to get ready for Sauk Rapids. We need to take what we need to learn from this one, hang on to that, and move on. Sauk Rapids is going to be a good team. We have a weekend to lick our wounds and move in the right direction."
ALEXANDRIA 7 7 0 7 - 21
SARTELL 14 0 8 8 - 30
SCORING- FIRST QUARTER- Alexandria- Matthew Carlsen 41-yard TD pass to Kristen Hoskins (Sean Haak PAT good) 7-0; Sartell- Cole Hentges 61-yard pass to Gustav Gunderson (PAT good) 7-7; Sartell- Andrew Ambrosier 7-yard TD run (PAT good) 14-1;
SECOND QUARTER- Alexandria- Cody Branson interception return TD (Sean Haak PAT good) 14-14;
THIRD QUARTER- Sartell- Ethan Torgrimson 3-yard TD run (Cole Hentges two-point conversion run good) 22-14;
FOURTH QUARTER- Alexandria- Nolan Morical 6-yard TD run (PAT good) 22-21; Sartell- Cole Hentges 12-yard pass to Jacob Bjelland (Cole Hentges two-point conversion run good) 30-21;
ALEXANDRIA OFFENSE - PASSING- Matthew Carlsen 12-27, 153 yards, TD, 3 INT;
RUSHING- Nolan Morical 22 attempts, 122 yards, TD; Matthew Carlsen 6 attempts, 26 yards;
RECEIVING- Kristen Hoskins 7 receptions, 113 yards, TD, Cody Branson 1 reception, 5 yards; Dylan Meista 2 receptions, 12 yards; Kade Blankenship 2 receptions, 12 yards;
DEFENSE- Xavier Homelvig 7 tackles, 12 assists, 1 sack, 2 TFl; Derek Pesta 3 tackles, 6 assists, 2 TFL; Riley Simonson 3 tackles, 2 assists, 2 TFL; Elijah Holthaus 3 tackles, 2 assists, 2 TFL; Carter Moen 3 tackles, 1 assists, 1 TFL; Derrek Piepho 3 tackles, 1 assist; Cody Branson 2 tackles, INT, TD; Blake Hoelscher 2 tackles, 5 assists; Hunter Hastings 2 tackles, 2 assists, 2 TFL; Matthew Zick 2 tackles, 2 assists, 1 TFL; Maxton Meyer 1 tackle, Brady Anderson 1 tackle, Logan Croonquist 1 tackle, Jaymeson Molesworth 1 tackle