Those who looked at the box score from Moorhead’s 56-6 win over Buffalo last week saw some gaudy numbers put up by this Spuds offense.
And anyone who was at last year’s Section 8-5A semifinals game between Alexandria and Moorhead likely isn’t surprised.
The Spuds and Cardinals put on an offensive clinic on Oct. 26, 2019 in a game that Moorhead won 56-48 before moving on to win the section title over Bemidji. Most of the guys doing the damage last year were underclassmen, meaning Moorhead and Alexandria both had some serious weapons ready to return this year.
On Friday night, they will be on the same field again in a game on the Spuds’ home turf.
“I think both teams are incredibly talented,” Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said. “I don’t think the numbers both teams put up on the first night were accidental by any means.”
Moorhead features senior quarterback Trey Feeney, who is committed to play Division I football at the University of North Dakota. Feeney threw for 408 yards and six touchdowns on 17-of-24 passing in the win over Buffalo.
His top playmakers include brothers Blake and Brady Walthall. Blake caught five balls against Buffalo, four of which went for touchdowns.
Brady had a team-high seven catches that went for 83 yards. The Spuds also have weapons around them, with George Nyanforh catching three balls for 111 yards and a touchdown coming out of the backfield last week, and Jacqui Fitzpatrick adding a 77-yard touchdown catch.
“I think you have to match athlete to athlete with them,” Empting said. “I think we stand a pretty good chance to do that, but they do a really good job of creating one-on-one matchups, and their athletes are good enough to take advantage of that. Then their quarterback is good enough to get them the ball and smart enough to find those matchups.”
The Spuds were expected to be serious contenders in Section 8-5A again with so much firepower back, but Alexandria might have been more of an unknown.
The Cardinals lost a lot of talent from a big senior class, but the Cardinals looked every bit the part of a section power in their season opener last week in a 49-14 win over St. Francis.
Nolan Morical set Alexandria’s all-time career rushing mark after 222 yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Kristen Hoskins caught eight balls for 197 yards and three touchdowns, and Carter Steffensmeier threw for three scores and two interceptions on 15-of-26 passing in his first game as a full-time starter at quarterback.
The Cardinals’ defense has its work cut out for it in trying to defend Moorhead this week, but so too do the Spuds in trying to contain Alexandria.
“I think we’re going to definitely pose some challenges to them too,” Empting said. “Nolan and Kristen are two athletes who in just about every venue, I would put those guys up against anybody. We’ve got Zach Gundberg and Ibukunoluwa (Taiwo), we’ve got some other guys who are coming onto the scene for us as well.”
Taiwo is new to the Alexandria football team as a senior after moving to the area from Texas last winter. He had a couple catches last week and is a player Empting feels will get better and better as the season progresses.
“He’s a really good athlete and just needs to get some time in our system with some snaps and game action,” he said. “He’s going to help us defensively as well.”
Empting was thrilled with the way his offensive line played in the win over St. Francis, and he knows they are a vital part of whether or not Alexandria will leave Moorhead with a win.
“We are able to score from a long ways out and quickly, but Moorhead is going to match athletically with us a little bit better. We’re going to have to be able to sustain drives, and our offensive line is going to be huge in that.”
This is the kind of highly-anticipated match-up that athletes and coaches were so excited to play in when football was brought back to the fall season. It’s only week two, but in a six-week regular season where nothing is guaranteed due to COVID-19, Friday’s game between two rivals carries plenty of meaning.
“You don’t know. I hate to say that, but we know we have Friday and hopefully we get one after that,” Empting said. “I have confidence in Alexandria that our kids are doing everything they need to do to make sure we’re able to put a team out there every week, but I think every opportunity to play now is important.”