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Red Wing tops Albert Lea

Albert Lea's Emmitt Stevens drags Red Wing defender Ben Munson Wednesday during the Section 1AAAA quarterfinals at Red Wing. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Albert Lea’s Emmitt Stevens drags Red Wing defender Ben Munson Wednesday during the Section 1AAAA quarterfinals at Red Wing. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

RED WING — A scoring drive in the first quarter delivered a jolt of electricity to the Albert Lea football team, but the Tigers were held out of the end zone the rest of the game.

“We’ve seen that spark for halves this year and for drives and series on both sides of the ball,” said Albert Lea coach Kevin Armbrust. “But something we talked about before the game was how we never did it all at once.”

Three turnovers in Red Wing territory and and a blocked punt that set up the Wingers at Albert Lea’s 31-yard line resulted in a 33-8 Tigers loss Wednesday in the Section 1AAAA quarterfinals at Red Wing.

“If you consider everything they’ve been through to still show up in this game and go hard and give Red Wing a scare in the first half, that shows the character of these guys,” Armbrust said.

The Wingers (6-3, 2-3 Big Southeast Blue) took a 14-0 lead in the game’s first seven minutes.

Albert Lea (0-9, 0-8 South Central Red) responded by driving into Red Wing territory. The drive stalled, and the Tigers lined up to punt. However, an offside penalty gave Albert Lea a manageable fourth down, and the Tigers capitalized.

A personal foul on Red Wing later in the drive for a late hit on running back Emmitt Stevens set Albert Lea up on the seven-yard line. With 40 seconds left in the first half, Tigers quarterback Jake Kilby found the end zone on a 1-yard run.

In the second quarter, the Wingers converted a fourth down of their own and went on to take a 20-8 lead. Albert Lea countered with a steady dose of rushing by Stevens to Red Wing’s 29-yard line.

Although the Tigers’ drive was interrupted with a fumble by Stevens, Stevens recovered a Red Wing fumble on the Wingers’ 37-yard line less than 30 seconds later.

On the game’s next two possessions Red Wing picked off a pass and Albert Lea’s Dylan Lestrud intercepted the ball as time expired in the first half.

Red Wing scored on its first possession of the second half and blocked a punt on Albert Lea’s opening possession of the second half, and the Tigers weren’t able to rebound.

Jake Kilby led Albert Lea’s rushing attack with 13 carries for 66 yards and a touchdown. He also found the end zone on the two-point conversion. Stevens added 19 carries for 65 yards. Kilby and Stevens are two of 15 seniors on the Tigers’ roster.

“I just want to thank them all for everything they’ve given to the program,” Stevens said.

Defensively, Tristan Johnston led Albert Lea with 8 1/2 tackles. Stevens had 7 1/2.

Coming into the game, Albert Lea — the No. 6 seed with a No. 45 ranking through Minnesota-Scores.net’s Quality Results Formula — had lost 27 consecutive games over a span of three seasons, including 41-15 loss against Red Wing in 2014.

Red Wing — the No. 3 seed with a No. 21 QRF ranking — was coming off a 30-7 loss Friday at Mankato East (5-4, 3-2 Big Southeast Blue) after starting the season 3-0.

The Wingers advanced to play No. 2-seed Winona (7-1, 4-1 Big Southeast Blue) in the section semifinals at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Winona. The Winhawks beat the Wingers 44-20 during the regular season on Sept. 11.

On the season, Albert Lea’s closest game was a 17-13 home loss against Worthington on Sept. 4, a game the Tigers led 13-2 at halftime.

Of the nine opponents Albert Lea faced this season, four were ranked in the Associated Press final poll: No. 8 (AAAA) Marshall, No. 10 (AAAA) Waseca, No. 3 (AAA) Tri-City United and No. 7 (AAA) Belle Plaine.

“We thought we were going to do a lot better in terms of wins and losses, but these guys fought through a lot,” Armbrust said. “They fought through injury. They fought through adversity, and they fought through a tough schedule.”