The Bemidji Lumberjacks gridders head to Alexandria this afternoon for a rare Saturday regular season matinee.
It will be Homecoming for the Cardinals with a giant parade set to precede the grid game. That should further aid to fire up the Cards.
Bemidji will be seeking to climb back to the .500 mark with a win.
But it will not come easily. Alex is 2-1, beating Moorhead 32-21 and Apollo 40-21 in its last two starts after a 14-7 opening night loss to unbeaten Sauk Rapids.
The Cardinals will also be remembering last year's meeting at Bemidji which the Jacks won 27-13, breaking a string of eight straight Alexandria wins since 2000, three in post season play.-
The big question today will be which Bemidji team will show u p.
If it is the one that dominated Brainerd two weeks ago in a 15-13 win, it stands a good chance of holding its own.
If is the one that played in weeks one and three that killed itself with turnovers and poor field position, then it could have serious problems.
The two schools were once conference mates in the old Central Six in the 1940's but met only once between 1949 and 1986.
There was another gap between 199o-99 before the pair resumed play and have met most of the ensuing years.
Bemidji held a large lead in the series until 2001 when the Cards eight game skein sent Alex ahead. Bemidji's win last year sliced the deficit to 11-10.
Following the upset over Brainerd, Bemidji went into last Friday's contest with high hopes. But poor field position staked the Tigers to a 28-0 lead before Bemidji scored three times in the second half to lose 43-21. The line dominance which was evident against Brainerd, was not present against the Tigers who controlled the line of scrimmage most of the night.
Alex ended 2-7 last year but was in all but two games. The Cards lost 11 starters during the season to injuries but have nine starters back plus two of the key injured players Mark Whiting and Tyler Iverson.
Second year head coach Mike Empting holds his team has "good athletes returning at most positions on both sides of the ball and possesses good team speed, especially in the skill positions."
Those could cause Bemidji problems.
If the Cards have a problem, it is the lack of size up front which could swing the pendulum back in Bemidji's favor. They also graduated seven starters from the defensive unit, three in the secondary.
Based on the past two weeks and Bemidji's long ball threat, it could result in another shootout today.
Bemidji has had a so-so week of practice bothered by nagging injuries, but expects to have most of its players back today.
Gone for the year is outside linebacker Collin Hilmer, lost to a knee injury. Harley Kroening has replaced him. Ernie Heifort and Evan Olson will be the inside backers.
Josh Smith is back from the injury list at defensive end to team with Frank Mays. Corey Huber and Lukas Dudley will share the nose .
The Woods brothers, Czar and Carey, are at the corners with Forrest Moe and Matt Hietala deep.
Sophomore Mitch Hendricks will be back at the throttle with Czar Woods and Olson as the running backs backed by Kevin Nelson. Ryan Rude and Cole Bardwell are the wide outs with Will Bruestle at tight end, Zach Solheim, Chris Dudley and Grant Richardson split time at tackle, Chris Madson and Jake Gruber are at guard and Lukas Dudley at center.
Richardson or Jon Henry will inherit the placekicking chore with Mike Rees playing soccer at Apollo. Erik Jacobson should be back to punt and possibly kick off.
"Alexandria looked very goon on tape," said Coach Troy Hendricks. "They have a very talented quarterback and good speed at the running backs."
When Apollo set its defense to stop the Cardinals long range passing attack last week, Alex switched to a running game at halftime and dominated the final two periods.
Quarterback Colin Erickson ran for 176 yards and three scores.
Erickson (238-sr) will be joined by Parker Giroux (159-jr) and Mike Joerger (172-jr) at running back.
Ross Thompson (154-sr) and Mark Whiting (188-sr) are the wideouts with Joe Hurlbut (235-sr) as tight end.
Andrew Werk (235-jr) opens at center flanked by Steve Carlsen (215-sr) and Tyler Johnson (204-sr) at guard and Bobby Guetter ((220-sr) and Dalton Frovarp (232-sr) at tackle.
On defense, the Cards have Ethan Jackson (230-jr) and Carlsen at the ends with Derek Bullock (238-sr) and Ross Carlson ( 290-jr) at tackle.
Linebackers are Cody Erkkila (235-sr) and Cody Knoudela (197-sr) with Iverson (165-sr) and Lucas Betterman (162-sr) at the corners and Felix Coleman (172-jr) and Thompson at safety.