The second game of the season was one that the Alexandria and Moorhead football teams had circled on their calendars as two of the powerhouses in Section 8-5A would go head-to-head.
But after the matchup ensued on Friday night, Cardinal’s head coach Mike Empting said, “It’s one of those games where Monday can’t come soon enough.”
The Spuds routed the Cardinals 42-0 on their home turf to solidify themselves as the Section’s team to beat moving forward. Moorhead came in with the game plan of taking away Alexandria’s big-time playmakers and left them off the scoreboard entirely. Nolan Morical and Kristen Hoskins combined for one first down in the first 24 minutes. By then, Moorhead already had a 28-0 halftime lead.
“We knew that they were going to have good athletes out there on the edge,” Empting said. “Every time those guys had the ball, there were two, three or four guys right there. They rallied to them, and it was tough to get either of those two guys going. It was tough sledding for the guys in the middle. Nolan busted off a couple in the second half, but it was hard for him to consistently get decent gains.”
Alexandria’s inability to establish their ground game forced them to play Moorhead’s style of air-raid football. It wasn’t until late in the first quarter when the Spuds called a designed running play.
Senior Trey Feeney, a University of North Dakota football commit, had a big day through the air. It started during Moorhead’s second drive of the game when he found Jacqui Fitzpatrick in the back of the end zone. Feeney rolled out to the right before reversing the field to find Fitzpatrick for a sliding catch.
Feeney’s second touchdown pass made it 14-0. Brady Walthall ran a slant route towards the middle of the field on second-and-goal from the six-yard line. Walthall caught the ball before the goal line, but a missed tackle allowed him to break the plane for six.
“Their guys are pretty good with the ball,” Empting said. “They’re really good at making guys miss. It was tough to get a clean shot on them. We need to tackle better. I think our guys, when they watch the film, they’re going to know it if they already don’t. They have to do a better job of tackling.”
On Moorhead’s second touchdown drive, it was third-and-13 from the Alexandria 24-yard line. Feeney scrambled for a 12-yard gain. On fourth-and-one, Moorhead running back George Nyanforh picked up six yards to keep the drive alive. The drive was set up after Alexandria quarterback Carter Steffensmeier threw a red-zone interception on the Moorhead nine-yard line.
“He missed some reads and probably missed some passes too. I’ll have to see the film this week,” Empting said. “He needs to be more consistent throwing the ball. I think he had some throws he missed, and he knows that. We have to remember that this is only his second start, and it’s a really tough team to go up against tonight. We like what we see out of him, and he’s only going to get better with more experience.”
The Cardinals punted on their next possession – giving the ball to the Spuds at the Alexandria 46-yard line. A late hit out of bounds and a defensive offside call gave 19-yards to Moorhead before Fitzpatrick caught his second touchdown of the game.
With under two minutes left in the half, Alexandria was facing a third-and-long deep in Cardinal territory. A botched snap bounced around the Alexandria backfield before a Spud jumped on the loose ball. Alexandria’s second turnover of the night led to Fitzpatrick’s third touchdown catch of the half.
“Their receivers are so good at keeping their routes alive,” Empting said. “They have the scramble drill down. The plan coming in was to try and keep (Feeney) in the pocket. We knew that we were going to have struggles matching up with them on the perimeter. I thought we had a pretty good plan, but we have to work harder at it.”
Despite a 28-0 halftime score, the Cardinals made some adjustments to start moving the ball more efficiently. Even on a night where the offense was shut out, Alexandria’s pass blocking gave Steffensmeier time in the pocket when he needed it.
“I don’t think we played real bad up front,” Empting said. “Carter had time back there and was rarely pressured. We protected him pretty well. We had some running seams too, but the biggest thing is their linebackers were so active. We had a seam at the first level, but it closed at the second level. I think at the point of attack we were doing a nice job.”
For Moorhead, the fourth quarter belonged to Nyanforh. After a 14-yard touchdown run with nine minutes left in the game, the explosive Spud ball carrier broke off a 66-yard scamper with five minutes to go. Nyanforh’s two scores exemplified how many weapons Moorhead can turn to at any given time.
“Defensively, we had a hard time getting off the field,” Empting said. “I don’t know what the time of possession was in the first half, but I know Moorhead had the ball for a long time. It’s not like they were hammering us with it, but their passing game nickeled and dimed us down the field. We did a better job with our adjustments in the second half, but establishing anything offensive was a challenge.”
Next Friday, the Cardinals hit the road for Brainerd in another rivalry matchup. Empting is ready to leave this game in the past and get prepared for the Warriors.
“We want to get out there and get that next practice going,” Empting said. “That’s the thing about football; there’s only one game a week. You have to sit on this for a little bit and use practice to generate momentum heading into next Friday. Moorhead is a good team, and they’re talented everywhere. They have a lot of experience, but we have to play better.”
ALEXANDRIA 0 0 0 0 - 0
MOORHEAD 7 21 0 14 - 42
SCORING- FIRST QUARTER- Moorhead- Trey Feeney 4-yard TD pass to Jaqcui Fitzpatrick. Saif Allawi PAT good. 2:53; SECOND QUARTER- Moorhead- Feeney 6-yard TD pass to Brady Walthall. Awalli PAT good. 6:30; Moorhead- Feeney 9-yard TD pass to Fitzpatrick. PAT no good. 2:36; Moorhead- Feeney 9-yard TD pass to Fitzpatrick. Feeney two-point pass to Caden Berg good. 0:10; FOURTH QUARTER- Moorhead- Geroge Nyanforh 14-yard TD run. Awalli PAT good. 9:07; Moorhead- Nyanforh 66-yard TD run. Awalli PAT good. 5:05