Cody Scherff reaches for a pass from Derek Burkard Saturday in Faribault during the section semi-finals. -- Brandi Hagen/Albert Lea Tribune

Faribault finishes A.L.

Published 9:10am Monday, October 29, 2012

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FARIBAULT — The No. 6 seeded Albert Lea lost 43-14 to No. 1 seeded Faribault in Section AAAA semi-finals on Saturday night.

The night didn’t get off on the right foot for the Tigers when they lost Makael Lunning to a reoccurring ankle injury with 50 seconds left in the first quarter.

“He’s one of those young men that will play through pain and tonight the pain was too much to play through after getting twisted up in a tackle,” Tigers head coach Max Jeffrey said.

Lunning spent the remaining three quarters balanced on crutches watching from the sidelines.

“It was potentially his last football game and then it was,” Jeffrey said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that there had to be some serious emotion running through him because he couldn’t step back on the field and help his team compete.”

The Tigers were down 14-0 after a rough first half with injury and several incomplete passes, but in the final seven minutes of the third quarter, found themselves a way onto the scoreboard.

Ethan Abben scored the Tigers’ first touchdown a 7-yard run with 6:54 remaining which was followed by a good two-point conversion to Cody Scherff. By that point, the Falcons had another touchdown so the Tigers trailed 21-8.

“Ethan played a nice game,” Jeffrey said. “He makes plays even when guys come unblocked.”

Jeffrey said the Tigers’ blocking scheme changed after the first half to allow Derek Burkard more time to find his target and throw more complete passes. It seemed to work as more and more balls landed in the hands of Scherff, one even becoming a touchdown late in the fourth quarter, but the Falcons’ star player Riley Jandro, had already packed up the game for Faribault by scoring four touchdowns.

“He’s a tough football player, a good runner and he really hurt us tonight,” Jeffrey said about Jandro who was named All-Conference as a sophomore two years ago. “I’m guessing he had more than 200 yards rushing. You can’t run the ball the way he does without the offensive line.”

Even though the Tigers were disappointed in their final game of the season, they are happy to have made it as far as they did.

“We told the guys, half of the teams in Minnesota were finished on Tuesday and we weren’t one of them,” Jeffrey said. “That was a positive step. But, playing a team like Faribault has been a tough challenge for us for many, many years now. Someday, we’re going to beat those guys.”

In their game against the Falcons the Tigers had 146 yards rushing and 139 yards passing. Abben was 25-132 yards rushing with one touchdown. Scherff was 10-119 receiving with a touchdown and a two-point conversion.

“We gave our best and just never quit,” Jeffrey said. “If we’re going to move this program forward, we have to keep making an effort to play until the last whistle, and we did.”

Jeffrey said the seniors will be sorely missed from the football program.

“This group of seniors has contributed and stuck with it,” Jeffrey said. “They are wonderful young men and I can’t wait to watch them mature.”

And, he added, they are always welcome back in the locker room.

Jeffrey said the biggest thing the football team, and the other Albert Lea sports teams need to improve on in order to beat some of the bigger schools is to spend more time in the weight room.

“When you lift weights as an athlete you gain confidence in what you do and you gain strength overall,” Jeffrey said. “Our players need to make the investment. Our weight room needs to be the off season.”