The streak stops here

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 13, 2003

WINONA &045; At last, we can talk about it.

Finally, we don’t have to talk about it anymore.

The streak that began nearly five long years ago came to an end at Paul Giel Field in Winona Friday night, where the Albert Lea High School football team won 13-6, putting an end to a 40-game losing skid.

Email newsletter signup

It was the first victory for a Tiger football team since Oct. 16, 1998, when Albert Lea defeated Rochester Century 7-6. The Tigers went on to lose their regular-season finale and fell to Faribault in the playoffs, following with four consecutive 0-9 seasons and an 0-2 start this year.

“The big thing, to me, is for these guys playing football to have that feeling of what it’s like to win a game,” said third-year head coach Jeff Marty. “They stuck with it through thick and thin. To see the look on their faces, that’s the greatest thing in the world, the satisfaction that they can do this.”

The Tigers didn’t win with offense, defense or special teams. The difference wasn’t desire, emotion, motivation, fan support or coaching. It was all of the above.

And it wasn’t just the first victory for the varsity in a long time.

“It’s like the first football game we’ve ever won, since sixth grade,” said senior tri-captain Randy Larson, who made several outstanding defensive plays. “It feels great.”

“This is amazing,” said captain Stephen Thorn. “I’ve never had a feeling like this before.”

The other captain, Chris Hable, attributed the victory to teamwork.

“Everybody wanted to win, I guess,” said Hable.

But victory was anything but a sure thing.

“It was definitely a hard-fought ballgame,” said Marty. “We felt last week we let one slip away, but Winona was in the same situation, 0-2. It was a huge game for them, and they played very well. It was a physical game, a dogfight.”

The 0-3 Winhawks had the early edge in what would be a game of field position in the first half, but the Tiger defense either forced them to punt or picked off quarterback Brian Moore, who was intercepted by Cory Kuipers and Brandon Klukow in a scoreless opening quarter.

The Tigers, buoyed by a 7-yard pass from Thorn to Adam Lohse and tough runs by Ryan Truesdell, Klukow and Ross Habben, crossed the midfield stripe early in the second period before stalling on the Winona 39.

The defense forced another three-and-out, and the offense followed with a 55-yard, six-play drive that ended with a 1-yard touchdown run by Truesdell but included runs of 13, 7 and 10 yards by Habben, who kicked the PAT for a 7-0 lead.

The Tigers were knocking on the door again as the second quarter ended with Truesdell pushed out of bounds on the Winhawks’ 10.

Klukow cruised 43 yards with the opening second-half kickoff, setting the Tigers up with good field position on their own 44, but they punted after three plays.

The defense responded with its second touchdown of the season, with Truesdell recovering a Winhawk fumble in the end zone. The PAT kick was unsuccessful and Albert Lea led 13-0 with 8 minutes left in the third quarter.

Taking over on their own 34, the Winhawks quickly moved inside Albert Lea territory with a 39-yard pass. They were penalized for holding on fourth-and-3, however, and had to punt.

After the Tigers fumbled for their only turnover of the night, Larson and Cory Kuipers came up with big defensive plays to force another punt as the third quarter came to a close.

Zach Marty intercepted a pass deep in Tiger territory to stop the Winhawks’ next drive.

The Tigers, after their second straight three-and-out, had to punt again, and this time it was blocked and recovered in the end zone for a touchdown. Hable blocked the PAT kick and it was 13-6 with 5:17 remaining.

Truesdell picked up a key first down on third-and-6 to help the Tigers run precious time off the clock, but Winona got the ball back on its own 29 with 2:13 left. After three straight incompletions, Kuipers broke up a pass that Moore was able to release just before he was hit by a blitzing Jared Butler.

Truesdell had another big run for a first down, this time on fourth-and-4, as the Tigers were able to run out the clock.

Their fans, who had formed a “tunnel” as the Tigers took the field after halftime, flooded the field to help them celebrate the long-awaited victory. Coach Marty was doused with Gatorade during post-game interviews.

The Tigers outgained the Winhawks 205-176, holding them to 86 yards rushing on 30 carries.

Truesdell totaled 106 yards rushing on 17 attempts, Habben 59 on 14. Travis Klatt, who did a good job punting, caught one pass. Adam Lohse had the Tigers’ other reception.

The win not only puts the streak to rest, it gives the Tigers added confidence for the rest of the season, beginning with this Friday’s game against 1-2 Rochester Century at Hammer Field.

“It sets the tone for the rest of the season,” said Thorn. “We played great last week against Owatonna, and this proves we can come out every week and play consistent. Come out and support us, because we turned a lot of heads tonight, and the rest of the season we’ll continue to do it.”

“The nice thing,” said Marty. “Is we can quit talking about it. We can move on.”











First Quarter

No scoring.

Second Quarter

AL&045;Truesdell 1 run (Habben kick).

Third Quarter

AL&045;Truesdell recovers fumble in end zone (kick failed).

Fourth Quarter

W&045;Blocked punt recovered in end zone (kick blocked).



First downs



Rushing yards



Passing yards



Total yards










RUSHING&045;AL, Truesdell 17-106; Habben 14-59; Klukow 10-17; Thorn 2-2.

PASSING&045;AL, Thorn 2-8-0, 21; W, Moore 5-19-3, 90.

RECEIVING&045;AL, .Klatt 1-12; Lohse 1-7.

(Jim Lutgens can be reached at or 379-3437.)