Homecoming to savor

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 7, 2006

Albert Lea downs Winhawks, 16-9

Tigers put halt to eight-game skid

By Jeff Budlong, sports editor

The fans were ready and just seconds before the final horn hundreds of Albert Lea faithful stormed the field to celebrate with the team. It was a moment everyone had been waiting for.

An eight-game losing streak came to an end for the Tigers in front of a vocal Hammer Field crowd that enjoyed homecoming just a little more with the 16-9 victory over Winona.

&8220;We had a lot of firsts tonight,&8221; Albert Lea head coach Clay Anderson said. &8220;This is the first homecoming we&8217;ve won in a long time, we scored a touchdown in the first half for the first time and we beat a team that was pretty good.&8221;

The Tigers had been building momentum for several weeks and gave head coach Clay Anderson his first victory at home even if it was a little harder to come by than some might have thought.

&8220;This is great, it&8217;s homecoming, we&8217;re in Albert Lea, everyone is here to see it, what else can you ask for?&8221; Albert Lea senior R.J. Polley said. &8220;(Winona) is good, they are underrated. They played a heck of a football game and we played a heck of a football game.&8221;

The Winhawks came out ready to play taking the opening possession 72 yards in 15 plays for a touchdown to go up 6-0 after missing the extra point.

Albert Lea would respond with a good looking drive that took them all the way down to the Winhawk 36 before a penalty threatened to derail the progress. However, on the next play, quarterback Corey Dieser found Anthony Tippett on a screen. Tippett slipped a few tackles and raced down the sideline 48 yards for the touchdown and the 7-6 lead with 1:49 left in the first quarter.

&8220;I am not lying to you, I made up that play this week in practice,&8221; Anderson said. &8220;We ran it maybe five times in practice, and it was just the perfect time to run it. It worked and it was just one of those things.&8221;

Winona would have a long kickoff return negated by penalty with its next possession forcing them back to their own 7. The Albert Lea defense would force a three and out setting the offense up in great field position 31 yards away from the end zone.

Running back Matt Morris carried the ball four consecutive times for 19 yards before Michael Culhane did the rest of the work from 12 yards out putting the Tigers up 13-6 early in the second.

&8220;We came out and played offensive football for the first time all year and that is exactly what we wanted,&8221; Polley said.

The Winhawks would not get anything else going until its final drive of the half as a Taylor Ignaszewski&8217;s interception was taken away on a penalty.

Winona would drive all the way down to the 8 before Dieser came up with the pickoff in the end zone to preserve the lead heading into the locker room.

&8220;Defensively, we shored some things up and made them throw the ball which is always a goal,&8221; Anderson said.

After a scoreless third, the Tigers added to their lead three seconds into the fourth on a 24-yard field goal from Tyler Nesset.

Louie Grossman would come up big defensively on the next possession for the Tigers sacking Winona quarterback Grant Peterson twice for a total loss of 20 yards just when the Winhawks started moving the ball.

&8220;He has made big plays for us for two straight weeks,&8221; Anderson said. &8220;Last week he got the start and he responded and this week he did it again.&8221;

Winona was down but it was not out as the Winhawks had one more breath of life when Culhane had the ball stripped while running for extra yardage.

The Winhawks turned the fumble into three points, but Culhane redeemed himself with some tough running on the Tigers&8217; next possession to ice the game and get Albert Lea into the win column.

&8220;Mike is a great character … and I am really glad to see him come back with some big runs,&8221; Anderson said.

The Albert Lea offense finished the game with over 200 yards of total offense including 149 yards on the ground. Morris led the way with 98 yards and Culhane added 46.

Dieser finished the game with 71 yards through the air on three completions with a touchdown and an interception.

The Tigers will look to continue their winning ways Friday when they host rival Austin.

&8220;Austin will be looking at it as their big week to get a win so we need to go out there and play a good game,&8221; Anderson said.

Albert Lea 16, Winona 9

Winona

6

0

0

3 &045; 9

Albert Lea

7

6

0

3 &045; 16

First Quarter

Win &045; Chad Peterson 1 run (kick failed)

AL &045; Anthony Tippett 48 pass from Corey Dieser (Dieser kick)

Second Quarter

AL &045; Michael Culhane 12 run (kick failed)

Fourth Quarter

AL &045; Tyler Nesset 24 FG

Win &045; Andrea Kalis 25 FG

Individual Statistics

Rushing &045; Matt Morris 25-98, Michael Culhane 13-46, Anthony Tippett 2-1, Corey Dieser 5-6

Passing &045; Corey Dieser 3 of 6, 71 yards 1 TD, 1 INT

Receiving &045; Taylor Ignaszewski 1-15, Anthony Tippett 1-49, Michale Culhane 1-7