Ethan Torgrimson is a senior leader on the Sartell-St. Stephen football team. After a dominant performance in a 49-29 win over Alexandria on Friday night, he gave most of the credit to the underclassmen who made his job easier.

The Sabres are young along the lines, but they showed up against the Cardinals. Torgrimson did too, rushing for five touchdowns and leading Sartell-St. Stephen to its second win over Alexandria in as many seasons after the Sabres snapped a long losing streak with a win over the Cardinals in 2019.

“On defense, it was shutting down the couple guys they have that are mainly statement players like Kristen (Hoskins),” Torgrimson said. “Then the o-linemen dominated the line. It was line play that really sealed it for us.”

Things haven’t been easy for the Sabres in recent years. Their record since going 0-9 in 2017 was 1-26 over the last three years, but they certainly looked like a team capable of turning a corner on Friday. Sartell improved to 2-2, while dropping Alexandria to that same record.

“We prepare to win every week,” Torgrimson said. “These young guys did a great job...It takes 11 guys. It’s a big confidence booster for these young guys. The whole left side of our line is sophomores. If we get them developed and get them up to speed, they’ll be cruising by the time they’re seniors. That’s the goal is building a culture here.”

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Alexandria's Aaron Jost grabs hold of a Sartell ball carrier during Friday night's game at AAHS. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
Alexandria's Aaron Jost grabs hold of a Sartell ball carrier during Friday night's game at AAHS. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

It looked like Alexandria might pick up where it left off last week in a 49-14 win at Brainerd. Will Heydt scored the first of his two touchdowns on an 18-yard run on the Cardinals’ first drive that made it 7-0.

That’s when Torgrimson and the Sabres’ ground game started to take shape. He ran in a 31-yard touchdown that was the first of many long runs for the 6-foot, 3-inch, 203-pound back. Torgrimson added touchdown runs of 2, 81, 7 and 68 yards.

“He definitely showed some things on film,” Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said. “I thought we had a good plan, but as the game went along, you could tell that he just gained momentum. Every time he touched the ball, he ran with more confidence. A couple of times we had him and missed, but he’s a big guy who’s tough to bring down.”

Alexandria trailed 26-9 at the half, and the Cardinals got a big play right after the break. Hoskins picked up a fumble on Sartell’s squib kick to open the half as it was rolling near the right sideline. He was able to stay in bounds and go nearly 70 yards for the score.

That cut Alexandria’s deficit to 26-16. On the ensuing drive, Torgrimson broke off his 68-yard touchdown to shift all the momentum back to the Sabres.

Alexandria's Nolan Morical sheds a tackle on a run during Friday night's loss to Sartell. Morical returned to the lineup to get some carries after missing an Oct. 23 game due to injury. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
Alexandria's Nolan Morical sheds a tackle on a run during Friday night's loss to Sartell. Morical returned to the lineup to get some carries after missing an Oct. 23 game due to injury. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

Alexandria simply had too many mistakes to keep the game close. The Cardinals had a fumble near the goal line in Sartell territory, and a false start penalty on 4th-and-2 that forced a punt, which was then blocked. Sartell also had an interception returned nearly 85 yards for a touchdown by Parker Knutson that made it 42-16 late in the third quarter.

“We had a lot of mistakes. It’s as simple as we just have to be consistent, consistently good,” Empting said. “This is something I’ve been talking to the kids about. Right now, we keep doing those things that keep us from getting over the top. Long yardage situations, turn the ball over, a mental mistake here, a physical mistake there that gives up a big play. We have to stop doing those things. Yes, they’re high school kids, but we need to be consistent.”

Alexandria quarterback Carter Steffensmeier tries to elude the Sartell rush during the Sabres' win over the Cardinals on Friday night. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)
Alexandria quarterback Carter Steffensmeier tries to elude the Sartell rush during the Sabres' win over the Cardinals on Friday night. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

The Cardinals haven’t shown that consistency through four games. Their wins have been by 49-14 scores over St. Francis (0-1) and Brainerd (1-2), but their other loss came in a 42-0 game to a now 4-0 Moorhead program that won 21-0 over Rogers (3-1) on Friday night.

Things won’t get easier going into next week as Alexandria gets set to travel to Bemidji (3-1) on Nov. 6. The Lumberjacks beat Brainerd 38-13 on Friday and have won three straight by a combined score of 121-19 over Sartell, Edina and the Warriors. Their only loss is to an undefeated Andover team (3-0) in the season opener.

“The biggest thing right now is we have to take the lessons learned here,” Empting said. “We have a week. Bemidji is a good football team, and we have to fix the mistakes and move forward.”

SARTELL-ST. STEPHEN 49, ALEXANDRIA 29

SCORING - FIRST QUARTER - Alexandria - Will Heydt 18-yard run; Myles Sansted PAT; Sartell - Ethan Torgrimson 31-yard run; Alexandria - Safety

SECOND QUARTER - Sartell - Torgrimson 2-yard run; Sartell - Torgrimson 81-yard run; Andrew Ambrosier 2-point conversion run; Sartell - Torgrimson 7-yard run

THIRD QUARTER - Alexandria - Kristen Hoskins 70-yard kick return; Sansted PAT; Sartell - Torgrimson 68-yard run; Cole Hentges 2-point conversion pass to Gustay Gunderson; Sartell - Parker Knutson 85-yard interception return; Hentges 2-point conversion pass to Torgrimson; Alexandria - Heydt 2-yard run

FOURTH QUARTER - Sartell - Hentges 25-yard run; Lucas Smith PAT; Alexandria - Carter Steffensmeier 3-yard pass to Kelly Johnson; Sansted PAT