Semi-pro football team sprouts up in Albert Lea

Published 12:28 pm Saturday, April 3, 2010

A new football team has taken root in Albert Lea, but it’s also an old team in many ways.

The Albert Lea Grizzlies is a nine-man football team that will play in the Southern Plains Football League this spring and many of its members come from the former Owatonna Indians team from last season.

Many of the members from the Owatonna team came from Albert Lea and after it broke up following last season, those who wanted to continue to play started the Albert Lea team.

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Around 45 players make up the Grizzlies, which will play their home games in Albert Lea on the junior varsity football field at Hammer Field.

The Southern Plains Football League is a semi-pro league and consists of four teams, the Dakota Doom, a team from Elkton, S.D., the Buffalo Ridge Wildcats, a team from Lake Benton, and the South Central Hawgs, a team from Fairmont.

The players range in age from 18 to 40 and many play to keep active and competitive.

“One of the few releases of youthfulness that I still have left,” said George Gerdes.

The players don’t get paid, but instead play for the love of the game.

“This is the true love right here,” said Roberto Babastro.

The former members of the Indians have found their share of success in the league. The team went 6-2 last year and made it to the championship game for the third consecutive season.

Albert Lea will play eight regular season games, an all-star game and in the playoffs this season.

Several players played collegiately and others went on to play with the Rochester Giants of the Northern Elite Football League.

Albert Lea graduate Jason Kuipers played at Concordia, and Tony Tolbers, another Albert Lea alum, played at Rochester Community and Technical College and with the Rochester Giants. Babastro also played two seasons with the Giants.

“We know people in this town love football,” Kuipers said.

The Grizzlies will play their first home game April 8 against the South Central Hawgs.