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Football: Cards looking to regroup on their home field

Alexandria senior Paul Schwartz reaches for Sartell's Ryan Giguere in a game played on Sept. 7. Schwartz had a solo and eight assisted tackles against Bemidji last week as he and the Cardinals now get set to welcome in Sauk Rapids-Rice this Friday. (Eric Morken / Echo Press)

The Alexandria football team knew the last four weeks of the season would give the Cardinals some of their toughest challenges of this fall.

After losses to St. Cloud Tech (5-1) and Bemidji (5-1), those challenges continue this Friday at AAHS when 5-1 Sauk Rapids-Rice comes to town at 7 p.m. The Storm are fresh off a 34-6 win over a shorthanded Tech team. According to the St. Cloud Times, the Tigers played without 15 players last week who were ineligible due to rules violations after the Stearns County Sheriff's department issued 35 total minor consumption tickets at a homecoming party in St. Augusta.

"I didn't take much from that game," Alexandria head coach Mike Empting said. "That was a very different St. Cloud Tech team. They had a really hard time functioning, so it didn't take me long to realize we weren't going to garner much information from that game. We watched their Sartell game and our game from last year. That's kind of where we took our information from."

Perhaps the Storm's most impressive win this season came in the third week, a 38-37 victory at Bemidji, but that too came under some unusual circumstances. Bemidji had the ball at its own 47-yard line with 5 minutes, 16 seconds left before lightning forced them to suspend the game. After a long delay, coaches from both programs decided to call it where it was instead of having to resume the game later in the week with another regularly-scheduled game still on tap that next Friday night.

Empting said the Storm have a team that is simply solid across the board.

"Their QB is a good athlete who can throw the ball pretty well," he said. "They've got a couple pretty decent running backs who kind of carry the load for them. They're pretty solid up front."

Sauk Rapids-Rice scores almost 32 points per game and allows 24.2 to opponents.

"They run a nice scheme, kind of a Wing-T scheme out of the shotgun," Empting said. "Very similar to what we used to do a number of years ago when we had Colin Erickson as our quarterback and Mark Whiting and those kids. Defensively, they're very similar to us."

For the Cardinals, they are trying to continue the process of getting better. Alexandria is 2-4 now after a couple straight losses, but this team still has a lot to play for. The Cardinals are battling for the third seed in the Section 8-5A field, which would give them a bye in the first round of the postseason.

"I've talked to the kids about that. That's still something that's out there for us to play for," Empting said. "We really have to get one of these last two, and I feel like we'd be in a good spot for sure. Moorhead has a tough road too these last two games for them."

The Spuds are the last team on the schedule for the Cardinals and the team they are competing against for that third seed. Moorhead (1-5) plays at Brainerd (3-3) Friday night before coming to Alexandria on Oct. 17.

"I don't feel like we're playing that badly. As crazy as it might sound, we're very, very close," Empting said. "Sometimes you feel like a team just needs a hard reset. I feel like if we can get that bye, those 10 days might be just what we need, just to heal up, square some things away. Then who knows? Get a restart with the playoffs."

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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