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Abel Karfear's interception in waning seconds sends Spuds to Section 8-5A championship game

No. 2 Moorhead will host No. 4 Sartell next Friday at 7 p.m.

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Moorhead's Ben Hrdlicka carries against Alexandria's Hunter Athey during the Section 8 5A playoffs in Moorhead on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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MOORHEAD — When the Moorhead and Alexandria football teams meet in a playoff game these days, it's safe to expect some chaos.

Three hundred sixty-four days ago, the Cardinals walked into Moorhead's Jim Gotta Stadium for the Section 8-5A semifinals and stunned the Spuds with a walkoff hook-and-lateral play to advance.

Almost exactly one year later, the two squads met up in the section semis again — and this time it was Moorhead coming out on top 35-28.

With under 20 seconds remaining, Alexandria sophomore quarterback Chase Thompson fired to the end zone on a third-and-goal play from the Spuds' 9-yard line in an attempt to tie the game. Moorhead senior defensive back Abel Karfear played the role of hero, however, jumping in front of the intended receiver and picking the ball off with 14 seconds remaining to seal it for the Spuds.

With the win, No. 2 seed Moorhead (4-5) will host No. 4 Sartell (5-5) in the Section 8-5A title game on Friday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m.

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Alexandria, which was the third-seed in the tournament, ends its season at 4-6.

"We have a long history with Alexandria in playoff games," Spuds head coach Kevin Feeney said. "So we had a pretty good feeling this thing was going to be a four-quarter game. We play each other so often that we've developed a great rivalry, we have a lot of respect for them and I believe it's in return. They've got great playmakers, their coaches put them in great spots and thankfully we made one extra play (tonight)."

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Moorhead's Michael Haugo hauls in a touchdown reception against Alexandria's Hunter Athey and Kelly Johnson during the Section 8 5A playoffs in Moorhead on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Moorhead's playmakers showed out, too. The Spuds raced out to a 28-6 lead at one point behind three first-half touchdown connections between senior quarterback Gavin Quade and senior receiver Michael Haugo.

Quade first made it a 7-0 game with 3 minutes to play in the first quarter on a quarterback sneak from the 1-yard line. After that, it was the Quade-Haugo show in the second frame, first connecting on a 12-yard pass with just over 6 minutes remaining in the half, then a 48-yard score with over 2 minutes to play before another 5-yard reception with 32 seconds on the clock.

Quade finished the first half with 139 yards passing while Haugo had four first-half catches for 97 yards.

"It's been getting better each week and I think their confidence is growing each week," Feeney said of the chemistry between Quade and Haugo. "I was really proud of both of them but I was really proud of Gavin. (Alexandria) did some things different in the second half and we didn't panic and (Quade) did some checkdown stuff and got the ball to the guys he needed to. That's what a senior quarterback does. He's played a lot of football and we need him to do that. We believe in him."

The Cardinals' first score of the night came just under a minute into the second quarter when Thompson found sophomore receiver Mason Gorghuber on fourth-and-3 from the 16. Gorghuber made the catch and sprinted for the end zone before stretching out to break the plane. The extra point however was blocked to keep the Spuds on top 7-6.

After the third Quade-Haugo connection that made it 28-6 just before the break, the Cardinals took advantage of a big kickoff return and Thompson managed to find senior receiver Kelly Johnson for a 23-yard touchdown pass with 2 seconds remaining in the half to make it 28-13.

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Alexandria took a pass-heavy approach in the second half, running the ball just four times the remainder of the game. The Cardinals received the second-half kick and took the opening possession nine plays and 70 yards down field — capping off the drive with a 14-yard touchdown pass from Thompson to senior receiver Jaxon Schoenrock to make it a one-score game.

On the ensuing Spuds drive, Quade was picked by Alexandria sophomore cornerback Evan Kludt to set up the Cardinals with a chance to tie. They did just that, driving 85 yards this time and capping it off with a 10-yard quarterback keeper from Thompson. Thompson found Johnson for the two-point conversion and just like that the score was knotted up at 28-all with 2:57 to play in the third.

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Moorhead quarterback Gavin Quade sneaks in for a touchdown against Alexandria during the Section 8 5A playoffs in Moorhead on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

After Moorhead garnered a stop on the next Alexandria drive, senior running back Ben Hrdlicka rushed 4 yards to the end zone for the go-ahead score with 8:26 to play.

The Spuds had a chance to go up 14 with 2:28 remaining, but a pass to the end zone from Quade to junior receiver DJ Smith fell incomplete, giving Alexandria the ball at its own 23-yard line with a chance to tie the game late.

Thompson and company managed to drive all the way to the Spuds' 9 before Karfear's end zone pick sealed it for Moorhead in the waning seconds.

"You just make plays when they present themselves," Karfear said. "You want it every single day."

"Abel is a young man and works extremely hard," Feeney added. "I'm so pleased and so happy for him because he puts a ton of time and effort and work into it and to get thrust into that spotlight when we were decimated a little bit in the secondary with some injuries — him coming up with the big interception obviously (gives us a chance) to play another 48 minutes next week."

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Moorhead's Oliver Judd turns the corner against Alexandria's Hunter Athey during the Section 8 5A playoffs in Moorhead on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Quade finished the game 11-of-12 passing for 186 yards and three touchdowns. Haugo led all Spuds receivers with five catches for 124 yards.

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Hrdlicka paced the Moorhead ground attack with 203 yards on 27 carries and a touchdown.

Thompson went 27-of-44 through the air for 309 yards and three touchdowns. He was also Alexandria's leading rusher with 39 yards on four carries and a TD.

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Moorhead's Cade Allmendinger and teammates stop Alexandria's Kelly Johnson during the Section 8 5A playoffs in Moorhead on Saturday, Oct. 29, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

Johnson led all Alexandria receivers with 11 catches for 164 yards. Schoenrock added eight catches for 65 yards.

Next week, Moorhead will look to advance to the state tournament for the first time since 2019. The Sabres took the regular season contest over the Spuds 36-12 on Sept. 30.

"(Sartell) got after us last time," Feeney said. "And we're extremely blessed that we get to host this football game next week. We've got to get healthy and go back to the drawing board and find out a way to play another 48 minutes like we did (tonight)."

A 0 13 15 0—28
M 7 21 0 7—35

M — Quade 1 run (Qaqos kick)

A — Gorghuber 16 pass from Thompson (kick blocked)

M — Haugo 12 pass from Quade (Qaqos kick)

M — Haugo 48 pass from Quade (Qaqos kick)

M — Haugo 5 pass from Quade (Qaqos kick)

A — Johnson 23 pass from Thompson (Ramos kick)

A — Schoenrock 14 pass from Thompson (Ramos kick)

A — Thompson 10 run (Ramos kick)

M — Hrdlicka 4 run (Qaqos kick)

Ryan Spitza joined The Forum in December 2021 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Marquette, Mich., a city of 20,000 on the southern shore of Lake Superior. He majored in multimedia journalism and minored in public relations at Northern Michigan University, graduating with a Bachelor of Science in May 2019. While attending college, Spitza gained real-world experience covering high school and college athletics for both The Mining Journal and The North Wind.

Spitza can be reached at 701-451-5613 or rspitza@forumcomm.com. Follow him on Twitter @ryspitza.
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