Willmar doesn’t need to look too far to see what kind of talent Alexandria is bringing to Hodapp Field for Friday’s homecoming game.
If they want a blueprint, the Cardinals just need to watch some of their own game films from 2018.
“They remind me a lot of us last year,” Willmar head football coach Jon Konold said. “They have some really good speed, really good skill position kids and defensively, they’re real fast. We have to be able to contain those things defensively and make them drive the ball 10-to-12 plays if they’re going to score.”
Ranked eighth in Class 5A, Alexandria comes into Friday’s Week 4 game at 2-1 after suffering a 28-26 loss to Bemidji last week.
“They’re played really good 5A schools like Buffalo and Moorhead,” Konold said. “And Bemidji was in the (state) semifinals last year in 5A. (Alexandria) played them right down to the wire.”
At quarterback for Alexandria is Matthew Carlsen, who has completed 63.6 percent of his passes this fall for 711 yards, seven touchdowns and two interceptions. He’s also second on the team with 166 rushing yards and one touchdown on 23 carries.
Utilizing a zone run, Alexandria’s main rusher is Nolan Morical with 405 yards and seven scores on 64 attempts.
And when Alexandria goes to the air, Kristen Hoskins is far and away the main target with 33 catches for 461 yards and five touchdowns.
“(Hoskins), they get him on key screens and jet sweeps,” Konold said. “If we can get him contained and their inside game contained, we’ll be able to slow them down a little bit.”
Konold continued, “We got to pinpoint a couple of their guys they like going to and take away certain plays they like to do. Get them out of their first couple looks and get them to do other things and, hopefully, they’re not as good at those other things.”
Prepping for a football game on homecoming week presents plenty of challenges with keeping players focused around all the festivities. But after taking losses to a pair of state-ranked teams to open the year, coming off a 27-6 win over Big Lake last week has helped in keeping Willmar’s mind right.
“They have a little different walk about them,” Konold said. “They had their confidence shattered a little bit and that win helps us solidify what we’re coaching and what they’re doing on offense and defense and special teams. It rewards them for having a good week of practice and a good football game.”
He added, “We’ll have our hands full but our kids so far have had a good week of practice. I think we got a really good gameplan. It’s not out of the ordinary of what we do but we’re focusing on what they (Alexandria) do well.”
Willmar’s last game against Alexandria was Week 4 of the 2016 season, which saw Alex leave town a 56-12 winner and extend its win streak in the series to four games. The last win in the series by Willmar came during Week 5 of the 2013 season, 55-21, at Alexandria.