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A section rematch: Cards travel to Brainerd to face 0-2 Warriors

Alexandria's Cody Branson lowers his shoulder into a defender against Sartell on Sept. 7. Branson caught seven balls for 81 yards in the Cardinals' 17-16 win over the Sabres last week. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

The rivalry between the Alexandria and Brainerd football teams is ready to be renewed as the 1-1 Cardinals go on the road to face the 0-2 Warriors.

The last time these two teams met was in the Section 8-5A championship a year ago. Brainerd's star running back Charlie Geraets scored three fourth-quarter touchdowns to send the Warriors to the state tournament that night.

Geraets was lost to graduation, as were a lot of the players from that team. Through two weeks, Brainerd has tried to find itself a little bit while also dealing with two good programs in losses to St. Cloud Tech in week two (32-26) and Buffalo in the opener (38-28).

"I think they ran into two pretty good quarterbacks in (Aidan) Bouman from Buffalo and (Nate) Trewick from Tech," Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said. "I think too it might be a little bit of a combination of them also just getting some inexperienced kids on the field. Sort of a similar situation to us."

Empting said the Warriors have a good quarterback of their own in senior Sam Miller. Miller threw for 130 yards and a touchdown and added two more touchdowns rushing in the loss to St. Cloud Tech. Pat Gervenak was his favorite receiver after catching six balls for 63 yards.

"They've got some talent there, and they're big and physical up front like they always are," Empting said. "It's a different group of kids maybe, but I would say the same typical type of Brainerd team."

The Cardinals came out of last week's 17-16 win over Sartell feeling like they still need to generate more offense. Alexandria put up 243 yards against the Sabres and was 3-of-11 on third down.

Matthew Carlsen threw for 131 yards and a touchdown on 16-of-25 passing. Cody Branson was his primary target with seven catches and 81 yards, while Andrew Revering caught five balls for 46 yards and completed one pass himself for 37 yards to Taylor Jendro.

The run game is where the Cardinals would like to see things get going. They were held to less than 100 yards rushing for the second straight week, even though sophomore Nolan Morical put up 90 yards on 14 carries. Brainerd's defense has allowed more than 400 yards of total offense in each of its first two games.

"They lost quite a bit on defense," Empting said. "Their defense last year I felt was a bit suspect anyway. They were really good offensively last year and scored a lot of points. They've got work to do on the defensive side, but at the same time they ran into two pretty good quarterbacks. It's tough to play defense against quarterbacks that are that good who are throwing the ball, because it sets up so many things."

Empting said preparing for Brainerd is always a challenge.

"They're very well coached," he said. "They're solid. As soon as (players) get into the program, they're running their stuff so they're very good at what they do. We know what we have in store for us as we prepare for them."

Defensively, the Cardinals held Sartell to 288 yards of total offense last week after being on the field for 69 plays. Wade Odland and Derek Pesta led the way by being in on 11 tackles each. Daniel Jantzen was close behind with 10.

Alexandria was happy to get out of last week's home opener with a win, but they did so knowing there is room to improve. That's the message as this team looks to take another step forward when it gets off the bus at Brainerd.

"It's only two games," Empting said. "We're not anywhere near where we want to be at the end of the season. I think they hear that message."

WHAT: Alexandria vs. Brainerd

WHERE: Brainerd High School

WHEN: 7 p.m., Friday, Sept. 14

Eric Morken

Eric Morken is the sports and outdoor editor at the Echo Press and Osakis Review newspapers in Douglas County, MN. Follow him on Twitter at echo_sports.

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