Owatonna overwhelms Tigers

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 11, 1999

There were at least a couple things fans could expect to see at Albert Lea’s Hammer Field Friday night.

Saturday, September 11, 1999

There were at least a couple things fans could expect to see at Albert Lea’s Hammer Field Friday night.

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Chances were the Owatonna Huskies would break more than a few big plays while coach Jeff Williams did his best to run up the score.

Both happened.

Owatonna, which returns several starters from last year’s Class 4A state runner-up team, dominated play while defeating the Tigers 56-7.

While it may sound strange, it was generally agreed the Tigers improved in almost all facets of the game from last week’s 55-3 loss at Faribault. Owatonna is a strong, veteran team with talent and depth.

&uot;Especially offensively, we did some things better,&uot; said Tigers coach Steve Cunningham. &uot;I think there were enough bright spots offensively that it gives us something to build on. Bryce Williams did a good job running the ball. Our line, at times, did a good job. One of the biggest things is we have to keep from shooting ourselves in the foot. The mental errors that are drive stoppers, that kind of thing.&uot;

The Huskies got it going early. After a 56-yard kickoff return to open the game, it took only two runs by Cory Urban – the second covering 17 yards – for Owatonna to reach the end zone. It was 7-0 with 11:10 left in the first quarter.

The Tigers answered on their first play with a nice gain by Williams but it was nullified by a penalty. Three downs later the Tigers punted, setting up a five-play, 26-yard drive that ended 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tim Nierengarten.

Again the Tigers committed a penalty on their first play and they again punted after three. Owatonna then went 43 yards in five plays, capped by Urban’s 5-yard scoring run.

The Tigers showed some spark on their next possession, with Williams running 38 yards to the Owatonna 37 on the first play. The drive ended when Paul Olson’s 44-yard field goal attempt fell short.

Owatonna quickly struck again, taking it to the Albert Lea 48-yard line with an 11-yard run and a facemask penalty. Six plays later Urban scored again, this time from 3 yards out.

After an Albert Lea punt, the Huskies went 73 yards in nine plays, with Urban scoring on a 2-yard run. The PAT kick made it 35-0.

The Huskies drove deep into Albert Lea territory again but the Tigers held on fourth down and a 30-yard field goal attempt sailed wide left just before halftime.

Williams inserted Owatonna’s second team to start the second half but it didn’t make much difference. The Huskies covered 52 yards in five plays on their first possession, with Brandon Hagen going the final 37.

After a short Albert Lea punt, Hagen blasted 52 yards for another touchdown – his fifth in two weeks off the bench.

The Tigers’ offense finally came alive when Nick Cunningham hit Williams with a flare pass on third and long and Williams took it 42 yards to the Owatonna 19. The drive stalled on fourth down, though, with an incomplete pass.

The Tigers’ next possession resulted in their first touchdown of the season. They went 60 yards in nine plays, with Cunningham scoring on fourth down from the 2-yard line. Olson’s PAT kick cut it to 49-7 with 6:15 remaining.

Owatonna’s third team offense added a touchdown with 2:26 left.

The Tigers totaled 178 yards, 136 of them rushing. Williams was the leading ball carrier with 63 yards on 12 tries. Dusty Wangen ran for 62 yards on 13 carries. Cunningham completed one of eight passes, several of which were dropped.

The Huskies ran for 351 of their 362 yards. Hagen had 104 yards on seven carries, Urban 85 on 13.

Coach Cunningham said the Tigers’ special teams were both a positive and a negative. The defense, he said, definitely needs to improve.

&uot;Defensively, though, we have got to get shored up,&uot; he said. &uot;That’s the real weak spot right now. We just can’t go out and give teams touchdowns in two or three plays. We can’t allow that to happen.&uot;

The Tigers play this Friday at Mankato East.