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Football: Alexandria controls playoff opener against St. Cloud Tech to earn another shot at Moorhead

Sophomore quarterback Chase Thompson threw for five touchdowns, and the Alexandria defense did not allow an offensive touchdown as the Cardinals won 35-6 to set up a highly-anticipated semifinal game at Moorhead on Saturday in the Section 8-5A playoffs.

1.DSC_4935.Jaxon Schoenrock.JPG
Alexandria senior receiver Jaxon Schoenrock reaches the ball over the goal line for a 5-yard touchdown in the first quarter against St. Cloud Tech on Oct. 25, 2022. Schoenrock added a second touchdown catch of 11 yards to help the Cardinals earn a 35-6 win over the Tigers that advances them to face Moorhead in the section semifinals on Oct. 29.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press
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ALEXANDRIA — The Alexandria football team quickly built a 14-0 lead over St. Cloud Tech on Oct. 19 only to watch the Tigers rally right back to make a game of it in a 28-21 win for Alexandria.

The Cardinals followed a similar approach in Tuesday’s playoff opener in a rematch against the Tigers. But this time, they never let Tech creep back into it.

Alexandria scored 21 first-quarter points in the Section 8-5A opener. That set the tone as the Cardinals went on to win 35-6 to set up a semifinal game at second-seeded Moorhead (3-5) on Saturday at 7 p.m.

“We learned that our line just has to close down better, keep contain and let our linebackers do good work outside,” Alexandria junior defensive end Sawyer Rumohr said of lessons taken from that Oct. 19 game against Tech. “The offense started with a really good push, and the defense was locked in (tonight). I think in the second quarter, we were a little slow, but after halftime we got ourselves going again.”

Sophomore quarterback Chase Thompson threw five touchdowns for Alexandria.

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Thompson connected with senior Jaxon Schoenrock twice on 5 and 11-yard scores, and senior Kelly Johnson twice on short passes of 3 and 4 yards. Sophomore Evan Kludt caught a 16-yard touchdown as part of that 21-point first quarter.

“They were just getting open,” Thompson said of his receivers. “I guess those guys really can’t guard them. I don’t want to be arrogant, but that’s just how it is. Kelly and Jaxon, some plays you know they’re going to be open. Then with younger guys like Mason (Gorghuber), Kadyn (Weber), those guys are really good. They got bright futures. I look forward to throwing to them.”

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A Thompson interception to St. Cloud Tech’s Damarius Fletcher did go for an 85-yard touchdown early in the third quarter to make it a 21-6 game.

The Cardinals answered back on their next possession. Thompson hit Johnson on a 54-yard pass, and then threw over the middle to Schoenrock on the 11-yard touchdown on the very next play.

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Alexandria sophomore receiver Mason Gorghuber, 5, lifts up Jaxon Schoenrock after Schoenrock's first-quarter touchdown catch of 5 yards against St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8-5A playoffs on Oct. 25, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

“That was huge,” Thompson said. “I was just thinking coming out, ‘Get a touchdown. Let’s get back on our feet.’ Then we just closed it out from there.”

Alexandria’s defense made life difficult for the Tigers all night. They forced five turnovers and did not allow an offensive score.

Rumohr put an exclamation point on the performance midway through the fourth quarter. He got to the St. Cloud Tech quarterback for a strip sack, got back up off the ground and then jumped on the fumble recovery himself deep in St. Cloud Tech territory.

That turnover led to Thompson’s fifth touchdown pass, this time on a 4-yard toss to Johnson. Alexandria’s Evan Moore intercepted a pass in the end zone with 53 seconds left to finish things off.

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Alexandria's Jacob Lanoux hauls in an interception right in front of teammates Brayden Staples, left, and Hunter Athey, right, during the Cardinals' win over St. Cloud Tech in the Section 8-5A playoff opener on Oct. 25, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

“Huge,” Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said of the takeaways from his defense. “Anytime you turn them over five times, you better be winning that football game. That was good. We got some early on too when the game was still tight and it set up good field position for our offense.”

Now the attention quickly turns to Moorhead where Alexandria will try to avenge a 34-14 loss to the Spuds from Sept. 23. Thompson said the biggest difference between this Alexandria team from a month ago is the Cardinals are not making as many little mistakes.

Empting echoed those thoughts.

“That Moorhead game, I think back to that one and we just had a lot of mistakes in that game,” Empting said. “Moorhead is a good football team. They ended the season losing four in a row, but they’re still a good football team. The section is wide open, and if we can just play clean, take care of the football, lock things up and defensively be on assignments. When we’re on assignments, I tell the kids all the time, we’re really good.”

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Alexandria junior defensive end Sawyer Rumohr gets a hand up to try to disrupt the Connor Harens pass on Oct. 25, 2022.
Eric Morken / Alexandria Echo Press

The Spuds’ current 4-game losing streak started with a 30-12 loss to Sartell-St. Stephen (4-5) on Sept. 30, and the next three came against winning teams in Elk River (8-0), Sauk Rapids-Rice (6-2) and Rogers (6-3).

“We played Sauk Rapids, we played Elk River. We know how good they are for sure,” Empting said. “We can’t take (Moorhead) lightly, of course. They’re a better football team than losing four in a row. They lost four in a row to some pretty good football teams.”

These two programs played a thriller in the 2021 playoffs that Alexandria won 42-39 on its way to winning the Section 8-5A championship. Saturday will be another chapter in this rivalry between two programs that know each other very well.

“It’s going to be fun,” Rumohr said. “Last year, we got that insane win against them, and this year, I’m sure you could ask anyone, we’re all looking forward to playing Moorhead again because it would be awesome to beat them again in sections.”

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ALEXANDRIA     21 0 7 7 - 35

ST. CLOUD TECH     0 0 6 0 - 6 

SCORING - FIRST QUARTER - ALEXANDRIA - Chase Thompson 5-yard pass to Jaxon Schoenrock; Daniel Jackson PAT (7-0); ALEXANDRIA - Chase Thompson 3-yard pass to Kelly Johnson; Jackson PAT (14-0); ALEXANDRIA - Chase Thompson 16-yard pass to Evan Kludt; Daniel Jackson PAT (21-0)

SECOND QUARTER - No scoring

THIRD QUARTER - Damarius Fletcher 85 yard interception return; Blocked PAT (21-6); ALEXANDRIA - Chase Thompson 11-yard pass to Jaxon Schoenrock; Daniel Jackson PAT (28-6)

FOURTH QUARTER - ALEXANDRIA - Chase Thompson 4-yard pass to Kelly Johnson; Daniel Jackson PAT (35-6)

Eric Morken is a sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press Newspaper in Alexandria, Minnesota, a property of the Forum News Service. Morken covers a variety of stories throughout the Douglas County area, as well as statewide outdoor issues.
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