Spuds football team avenges playoff loss with win over Alexandria
Karson Wendt runs for three touchdowns, 180 yards to bolster Moorhead offense
MOORHEAD — The Moorhead Spuds earned revenge Friday night as they defeated the Alexandria Cardinals 34-14 in their first meeting since last year’s playoffs where Alexandria eliminated Moorhead.
“It does (feel good),” said Spuds head coach Kevin Feeney. “It’s a new season and a new team, but for our seniors in this class, and we had a lot of kids who graduated last year that were at this game, I know it meant a little bit more.
“But, our goal this week was to go 1-0. It made last week’s win that much more important.”
A rough, penalty-riddled, opening drive resulted in a Spuds punt on fourth-and-32 from their own 8-yard line which was returned by Alexandria’s Kelly Johnson for a touchdown.
Moorhead (3-1) bounced back, however, outscoring the Cardinals (1-3) 27-7 the remainder of the game.
“You talk about adversity punching you in the face on the first possession on O. Then we give up a punt return,” Feeney said. “But, control what you can control. I thought the kids regrouped and the offensive drive to string something together to put that to rest was a big key for us.”
Karson Wendt, who ended the night with three touchdowns and 180 yards rushing, evened things up for Moorhead with a 7-yard run through a gap up the middle with just under three minutes left in the first quarter. The play capped an 80-yard, five-minute drive for the Spuds.
The go-ahead score came a few moments later on a Cardinals drive when Reign Battle intercepted a pass from Chase Thompson and ran it in for six.
Wendt’s two other touchdowns came during the third quarter. The first was a 9-yard run on a four-play drive that saw him take the ball each time for a total of 46 yards, while the second was a 60-yard jaunt on the Spuds' next drive.
Wendt credited his offensive line for helping him earn some mileage on the ground.
“It’s really fun,” said Wendt of the win. “I have to say thanks to my O-linemen. They got me there. I have a lot of thanks for them and it was just a really fun night.
“I know my O-line will get it done and I have all my trust in them. I know I’ll be in good hands.”
Wendt’s ability to break open field tackles also helped earn him some extra yards. According to Wendt, it was hard work paying off.
“I think (it comes from practice). Some of it is natural and some of it is all the hours we put in in the offseason,” he said. “Just knowing our job and doing our job.”
Ben Hrdlicka — who also caught a pass from Gavin Quade for a 27-yard touchdown just before the end of the first half — had a strong showing for the Spuds defense with six tackles and seven assists.
“After a couple weeks ago, we did not feel like we played good defensive football,” Feeney said. “We moved Ben to our mike (position) and he needs to be the captain of the defensive unit. He’s a playmaker. He does great things with the ball in his hand.”
The Spuds played most of the second half without a major part of their defensive line in University of Washington commit Elinneus Davis, who left the game in the third quarter with a limp. Davis sat out the remainder of the game.
“He’ll probably go in the next week and we will find out more about what’s going on,” Feeney said. “We’ll pray for the best news we can get out of that. He’s a heck of a football player and we want to keep seeing him in the orange and black.”
The Cardinals scored once more in the third quarter as Andrew Flaten shuffled his way across the goal line from 13 yards out.
Alexandria coach Mike Empting felt that while the Cardinals played well at points, mistakes cost them a chance at competing for the win, primarily two big interceptions.
“We had opportunities, that first half especially,” Empting said. “Then we threw the pick-six. We were right in it and not playing too bad, but threw that interception that resulted in a touchdown.
“The (interception) before the half, we were driving in and that could have changed the complexion.”
Empting had hoped his team could rebound coming out of the locker room for the second half.
“We needed to come out and move the ball and we weren’t able to do that,” he said. “Then we gave up two quick touchdowns before we even knew what was happening in the third quarter. That’s a hard hole to climb out of. Overall, I don’t think we played that badly but we just had too many mistakes to overcome and get over the hill for this one."