Rivalry rekindled

Published 8:35 am Thursday, September 17, 2009

When the Albert Lea football team travels to Owatonna Friday it will be the first time many of the players have played on Owatonna’s field.

It’s a rivalry most players on either side haven’t experienced. Because of the rotating conference schedule, the Tigers (0-2, 0-1 Big Nine) and Huskies (1-1, 0-1 Big Nine) haven’t met in two years, but there’s plenty of animosity toward both sides that has built up from other sports.

The Tigers have beaten Owatonna for four years straight in wrestling, but the Huskies ended Albert Lea’s baseball season in two very heated games in the spring.

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Sure Owatonna has dominated on the gridiron for the last several years, but that hasn’t stopped the Tigers from believing they can compete with Owatonna.

“I think we need to just go into this game knowing that we’re not a bad team, we’re a good team,” said senior lineman Jordan Cooper.

Seeing an opponent every two years has its own set of challenges and even more so when that opponent is far different than any other Albert Lea will see this season.

“The hardest part about preparing for Owatonna is the style of football that they play, which is hard-nosed, physical football,” Anderson said.

The Huskies run a toss offense, Anderson said. It is a power running offense that can eat up a lot of time on the clock. Owatonna will be physical, but the Tigers are coming off a confidence-building game where they limited Winona to 61 yards rushing.

“Basically we’re going to have to rise to the challenge of the physicallness that Owatonna brings,” Anderson said.

Owatonna is the defending Big Nine Conference champion, but lost to Mankato West 28-14 as the Scarlets scored 28 unanswered points after trailing 14-0 in the second quarter.

Leading Huskies’ rushing attack is junior Collin Wencel. Wencel rushed for 1,080 yards last year as a sophomore and has continued to be a force this season. Wencl racked up 187 yards last week and 117 to start the season.

Friday’s contest is a pivotal one for Albert Lea, just in how it responds from a heartbreaking 20-14 loss to Winona last week. The Tigers experienced a letdown following an overtime loss to Mankato East last season that last several weeks. The players don’t want to go through that experience again.

“I think we just have to keep our heads up after losing to Winona,” said senior running back Luke Grossman.

Grossman is coming off a 104 yard performance against Winona Friday after the offense gained 348 yards.

The defense last week tallied three sacks and Jake Jensen led the team with 10 tackles.