Football: Alexandria's Johnson and Sayre sign with MSU-Moorhead; WCA-Ashby's Sykora signs with MSU-M as well

The MSU-Moorhead football program netted Alexandria seniors, Kelly Johnson and Ashton Sayre, along with WCA-Ashby senior Anthony Sykora as a part of its 2023 recruiting class.

Alex- Ashton Sayre (left) - Kelly Johnson (right) - DSC_7702.JPG
Alexandria seniors Ashton Sayre (left) and Kelly Johnson (right) sign their national letters of intent on Feb. 2, 2023, to play college football for MSU-Moorhead beginning in the fall of 2023.
Sam Stuve / Alexandria Echo Press

ALEXANDRIA - Alexandria seniors Ashton Sayre and Kelly Johnson have grown up playing sports in the area and have played sports with one another since their days at Lincoln Elementary School.

They've been big parts of Alexandria's football program.

"It's definitely a dream come true," Sayre said. "I'm really excited. It's definitely going to be a fun new chapter and just having to restart the process all over again and prove ourselves."

MSU-Moorhead competes at the NCAA DII level and is head coached by Steve Laqua, who is entering his 12th season as the program's head coach. Laqua has previously won the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference coach of the year award. He earned that honor and 2018 and was also named the 2018 Don Hansen Football Gazette Region 4 Coach of the Year.

MSU-Moorhead went 4-7 in the 2022 season.


"I feel like it's a nice area, and it's close to home," Sayre said. "I like coach Laqua. They have a great culture and a great program, and it just felt right."

"The coaches just built a relationship with me early on and just kind of stuck with me," Johnson said. "They have a great business program that I'm looking to go into."

Both student-athletes said they're recruiting processes started picking up steam in 2021.

Before signing their national letters of intent at Alexandria High School on Thursday, Alexandria head coach Mike Empting congratulated them on their signing and told them how much they meant to the program.

Johnson and Sayre were All-North Central Red District selections for the 2022 season. Johnson also made the Section 8-5A team, and Sayre was an all-section honorable mention.

Sayre, who was named the team's most improved player and who has a family connection to MSU-Moorhead, led the Cardinals' defense in tackles for loss with eight. He was third on the team in tackles with 67. He also had three sacks, one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery."

"Ashton is a dominating force; he was a guy that was hungry and is willing to get better," Laqua said in a tweet posted on the MSU-M football Twitter account on Wednesday, Feb. 1. "He has built himself up in the weight room and is very impressive when you see him."

Johnson had 36 tackles and two fumble recoveries on defense while leading the team in receiving on offense. He finished the 2022 season with 79 receptions for 889 yards and nine touchdowns, along with 181 punt return yards and one return touchdown on 16 attempts.


"He can play on the inside and on the outside, "Laqua said in a tweet posted on the MSU-M football Twitter account on Wednesday, Feb. 1. "He has great top-end speed to create space or take the top off routes. He's able to adjust with a jump or a twist and be able to go up and make a catch."

Joining these two is West Central Area-Ashby standout Anthony Sykora.

WCA-A- Anthony Sykora (right)-IMG_5380.jpg
West Central Area-Ashby senior Anthony Sykora (right) takes a photo with WCA-Ashby head coach Nate Wood (left) after signing his national letter of intent on Feb. 1, 2023. On the day, Sykora signed his NLI to play college football at MSU-Moorhead beginning in the fall of 2023.
Contributed photo by Nate Wood

Sykora was named the All-State team after his senior season and made the All-District Midwest (White) first team, as well as the All-Section 6AA team. He's a three-time all-district player.

Sykora is the WCA-Ashby all-time career rushing leader (3,710) and has 48 career touchdowns (44 rushing and four receiving).

"Anthony is a four year starter who will be dearly missed," WCA-Ashby head coach Nate Wood said in a post on the WCA-Ashby Facebook post on Wednesday, Feb. 1. "He has played nearly every minute of every game since the 2019 season. We are so proud of him and excited to see what his future holds. We're looking forward to cheering the Dragons on."

In his senior season, he rushed for 1,393 yards, 14 touchdowns on 178 carries, and he caught 42 passes for 210 yards and three touchdowns. He also threw for 655 yards and nine touchdowns this season. He also was named the Sub-District's offensive back of the year.

Sykora was named as one of the team's Co-MVPs on offense, along with fellow senior Cole Anderson.

On defense, Sykora had one fumble recovery and 34 tackles.


"He's a competitor that doesn't want to lose," Laqua said in a tweet posted on the MSU-M football Twitter account on Wednesday, Feb. 1. "He wants to win as a team and 1-on-1. He brings the confidence that you need to be a DB. He's physical and flat-out makes plays. You can't argue with that."

Currently on the Dragons' roster is Osakis alum Luke Imdieke, who was a standout for the Silverstreaks in high school and has made an impact in his first two seasons in Moorhead.

In his sophomore season, Imdieke rushed for 355 yards and one touchdown on 90 rushes, and he caught 55 passes for 380 yards and one touchdown. In two seasons combined, he's rushed for 634 yards and two touchdowns and has caught 85 passes for 690 and two touchdowns.

He's also recorded six tackles, one fumble recovery, and 35 kick return yards.

Sam Stuve covers a variety of sports in the Douglas County area. He also is assigned to do some news stories as well.
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