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Red Wing tops Albert Lea

Sam Moyer of Albert Lea runs past Red Wing's Travis Benway Wednesday at Jim Gustafson Field. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Sam Moyer of Albert Lea runs past Red Wing’s Travis Benway Wednesday at Jim Gustafson Field. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

After the Albert Lea football team took its first lead of the game on the first play of the second quarter, Red Wing responded with 35 unanswered points.

The Tigers fell 41-15 in their regular-season finale Wednesday at Jim Gustafson Field.

“We made so many mistakes,” said Albert Lea coach Kevin Armbrust. “It’s disappointing to see that many mistakes made at this point in the season.”

In the first quarter, the Tigers had a chance to score first but turned the ball over on downs at Red Wing’s five-yard line. It was the first of three turnovers in the next five plays.

Albert Lea’s defense stepped up as Chris Enderson picked off a pass at midfield on third-and-28 from the Wingers’ 10-yard line. However, the Tigers gave the ball back on the next play on a fumbled handoff between Jake Kilby to Triston Westerlund. Red Wing cashed in on the next play with a 59-yard pass from Tait Kelly to Travis Toivonen.

Red Wing’s two-point conversion failed, and Albert Lea mounted a drive at the end of the first quarter. The Tigers entered the red zone on a 12-yard pass from Kilby to Emmitt Stevens, and Kilby capped the drive with a 14-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second quarter.

With 7:21 left in the first half, the Wingers recaptured the lead, 12-7, on a quarterback sneak by Kelly. Less than three minutes later, Kelly threw his second touchdown pass of the game.

After an Albert Lea fumble was recovered at midfield by Red Wing with four minutes left in the half, the Wingers drove into Albert Lea territory. The Tigers’ defense forced third-and-long with a sack by Westerlund and Nick Kromminga, but Kelly hit Toivonen on the next play for a 30-yard touchdown.

Albert Lea fought back by driving deep into Red Wing territory, but time expired after Stevens hauled in a pass from Kilby and was stopped at the 1-yard line.

The Wingers led 26-7 at halftime and outscored the Tigers 15-8 in the second half.

In the fourth quarter, Tim Christianson took control. The Albert Lea senior intercepted a deflected pass, and he cashed it in with 3:17 left in the game on a 5-yard touchdown run.

“It’s my last time playing on this field, and I wasn’t going to miss the moment,” Christianson said. “I was going to score.”

Armbrust said Christianson was one of many players on his team who gave their all until the final whistle.

“There’s a lot of guys who went hard and didn’t give up,” he said. “I’m proud of them for that.”

Red Wing (2-6 overall) has the fourth-best QRF ranking out of six teams in Section 1AAAA. In an odd turn, Albert Lea (0-7 overall) has a No. 44 QRF ranking, while Winona (1-7 overall) — a team that beat the Tigers 28-20 — is No. 44. That implies that Albert Lea will be the No. 5 seed, and Winona will be No. 6 However, the official seeds have not been released.