Cardinals get another tough test this week

Those who thought Rocori might suffer the effects of losing so many quality seniors off of last year’s Class 4A state championship team might be in for a surprise this year.

At least that’s the way it looks on paper after week one. With a group of 31 new seniors, the Spartans did something they hadn’t done in 21 years in beating the Brainerd Warriors last Friday. The game wasn’t even close as Rocori jumped out to a 30-0 lead by the half and went on to win 48-28. You can count Alexandria head coach Mike Empting among those impressed after watching the tape from that game earlier this week.

Alexandria junior Riley Hvezda showed off some of the athleticism that head coach Mike Empting sees in his receivers as he brought down a ball over St. Cloud Tech’s Josh Schaefer last Friday. Hvezda made the catch but was ruled out of bounds near the back of the end zone. (Echo Press photo by Eric Morken)

“I think to suggest that they could repeat as state champions might be a tall order, but they looked pretty good on video,” he said. “They looked very athletic, very dynamic offensively, much like they were last year. They’ve got good athletes at all the skill positions. Their offense begins and ends with their quarterback, and he’s a big key for us.”

That quarterback is senior Mac Mueller, who is taking over for all-conference signal caller Nate Meyer. Mueller played like he had something to prove against the Warriors, racking up 371 total yards. He showed off his dual-threat capabilities, rushing for 173 yards on 19 carries and throwing for an additional 198 yards.

“He definitely runs the ball better than he throws it,” Empting said. “But he throws it well enough that we have to respect that. They have athletes at those receiver spots who catch it really well…they make you defend the whole field. You have to defend the run and the pass.”

Empting said his guys have to be disciplined in their assignments in order to slow down Mueller and this offense. One guy out of position could mean a big play for the Spartans.

Offensively, the Cardinals will try to clean up some of the things that hurt them against Tech last week. After watching that tape, Empting believes there are some positive things to build on.

“I thought we did some very good things in the second half,” he said. “We made a lot of mistakes, timing issues, mesh issues in the backfield with our running game that we have to work out this week. I think we have to continue to throw the ball.  I thought minus one throw, John made good decisions and our receivers showed they could catch the ball and do some things with it.”

Check the Friday edition of the Echo Press for more from Empting and his team’s first road test against another tough team in the Central Lakes Conference.