Last Friday was an ugly one night for the Alexandria football team. However, the Cardinals are motivated to put a 49-29 loss to Sartell-St. Stephen behind them this week when they take on rival Bemidji.
The 2-2 Cardinals are hoping to find the rhythm on offense they showed in weeks one and three. Alexandria put up 49 points against St. Francis (0-2) and Brainerd (1-2) but only mustered 29 points total in games against Sartell (2-2) and Moorhead (4-0).
Bemidji’s (3-1) defense will try to keep the consistency it’s shown through four weeks, where it averaged nine points allowed per game.
“They have an aggressive front with good athletes on that side of the ball,” Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said. “They have kids that can play their positions really well. They play with a lot of confidence, and they fly around to the football. They keep good leverage, so it’s hard to break a big play against them; there’s no doubt about that. They’re a tough group to try and break away from because they’re so athletic. They spread everybody out to the side of the football you’re running it. It’s going to be a challenge for sure.”
One of Alexandria’s big problems this year has been turnovers. Against Sartell, Alexandria turned the ball over five times with three fumbles and two interceptions. The Cardinals had 404 yards of total offense but scored only 29 points.
Alexandria was 6-of-14 on third down against the Sabres and 2-of-4 on fourth down. Quarterback Carter Steffensmeier was 23-for-36 for 212 yards with a touchdown pass.
Alexandria did have success running the ball against the Sabres. Senior Nolan Morical had 115 yards on 16 carries while Will Heytd punched in two touchdowns on nine carries.
Alexandria had problems containing Sartell, especially running back Ethan Torgrimson. He had five touchdowns on top of the Sabres 361 total rushing yards. The Cardinals will have to do better containing Bemidji’s option offense on Friday if they hope to come away with a win.
“(Bemidji) executes really well,” Empting said. “They have good athletes at their skill positions with linemen up front that have good size. They know their assignments very well. We have to be good at decoding what’s coming at us. They run that option game, which challenges a defense to be disciplined. We have to know what our assignments are and how to execute them on every play.”
Following the Sartell loss, Empting saw his team come to practice with a sense of urgency. Earlier this season, the Cardinals lost 42-0 in Moorhead but were able to bounce back with a 49-14 win over Brainerd. Empting is looking for a similar result this week.
“The team has been working hard,” Empting said. “We got back in here on Monday, evaluated the film and got the assessments out. They’ve responded positively. We’ve had solid practice sessions, kids are working hard, and the attitude has been good. I feel like we’ve been very productive. It’s one of those things where after a loss like that, you’re chomping at the bit to get back out there. Hopefully, we can get out there, start with some emotion and get invested in the game right away.”
Empting stressed the importance of bringing energy. He said he wanted his guys to come off the bus ready and motivated. While getting off to a good start on the first series will be important, Emptin is looking to keep the foot on the gas.
“A good start is important regardless of who we’re playing,” Empting said. “What I’ve found out, especially with high school, is that the second series is even more important. We’ve had opening drives where we scored or have gotten the stop on defense, but then kind of struggled after that. That second series defines how the half is going to go for the rest of our club. We have to come off the bus prepared to be in the game emotionally.”