Grizzlies rally past Wildcats
Published 8:34 pm Saturday, May 9, 2015
With a fourth-quarter rally, the Albert Lea Grizzlies won their home opener.
Tony Tolbers threw four touchdown passes, including the go-ahead 35-yard score on 4th-and-10, to lift the Grizzlies to a 29-28 win over Buffalo Ridge at Grizzy Field in Frank Hall Park.
“It gets a little heart-wrenching, but you stop thinking and just play,” said Tolbers.
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Cameron Batton started the game behind center for the Grizzlies (2-0 overall). In Albert Lea’s season opener May 2 at North Iowa, Batton had a 20-yard rushing touchdown, and he led Northwood-Kensett as a senior during the 2012-13 season with 603 rushing yards.
However, Tolbers took over at quarterback a series after Batton threw an interception at the Wildcats’ 3-yard line that led to Buffalo Ridge’s first touchdown.
“(Batton) is ready to play right now in my eyes,” Tolbers said. “He just needs to keep doing what he’s doing. He’s a good athlete.”
Tolbers, who is in his sixth season with the Grizzlies and is nursing an ankle injury said this will be his last season.
Leading Albert Lea’s defense was George Gerdes and Jason Kuipers.
Gerdes had a fumble recovery and tip that led to an interception in the first quarter along with an interception that iced the game with 1:37 left in the fourth.
“We got together as a defense and said, ‘Hey, this game is going to ride on us. If we don’t buckle down, we could be walking out of here 1-1,’” Gerdes said.
Gerdes was the Grizzlies offensive coordinator last season and only played offense in previous years at Albert Lea. The last time he played defense was at North Central High School in Manly, Iowa, he said.
“Eight weeks of practice really helped because it’s been 14 years since I played defense,” he said.
As a safety, Kuipers relayed calls from the sideline.
“For two weeks in a row, he’s done an awesome job of making sure the guys are in the right place to make plays,” said Grizzlies defensive coordinator Jeff Jimenez.
Albert Lea held the Wildcats scoreless and scored seven points in the fourth quarter. Depth on the roster was vital to the team’s success, said head coach Stephen Piper.
“In a lot of situations, your second string comes in and you drop talent, but we’re not losing any,” he said. “I feel bad that we can’t have them all on the field because there are some players who aren’t getting as much time as I would like. These guys are hungry.”
Next, Albert Lea will host host the Midwest Rampage (2-0 overall) at 5 p.m. May 16.
Statistics were unavailable.