Two years and 10 days after its last victory, Red Wing got back in the win column on Tuesday with a 20-16 decision over Albert Lea in the Section 1AAAA quarterfinals. The end of an 18-game losing streak comes with the prize of heading to top-ranked, top-seeded and unbeaten Winona for Saturday's semifinal.
“Collectively, we recognize that we're in a process of putting something back together that got deconstructed last year. The kids have hung in all year, there's been no discord. They've worked hard all year, and it paid off (Tuesday),” said Wingers head coach Nate Freier. “I can't say enough about what they've done. The genuine joy tonight was some of the most I've seen. The kids did all the work, I was just glad to be a part of it.”
Early on it appeared Red Wing was headed for a second-straight winless season, and third since 2012. But the Wingers won the battle between two struggling programs with a fourth-quarter touchdown and some stout defense.
Ismael Cabezas got Albert Lea on the board first with a 32-yard field goal a few minutes into the game. That capped off a drive that Red Wing propped up with 40 yards in penalties.
Tre Moore put the Wingers on top with a 29-yard run with 9 minutes, 1 second left in the second quarter. The two-point conversion failed, so Red Wing's lead stood at 6-3.
Cole Wentzel made it 10-6 Tigers with a 3-yard run with 2:14 left until halftime, but the Wingers would answer to take a 12-10 lead at the break with Seth Yeatman's 1-yard quarterback sneak with 42 seconds on the clock.
The second half opened with Carter Simon's 71-yard kick return, which gave Albert Lea a 16-12 lead. That lasted until 6:39 of the fourth when Yeatman hit Teddy Tauer for a 23-yard score. Yeatman then found Sam Kelly for the two-point conversion and a four-point lead that the defense would not give up.
Yeatman finished 12 of 19 for 180 yards, with Moore leading the way with 77 yards on five catches. Tauer had 68 yards on five receptions.
Albert Lea quarterback Alexander Goodmanson threw for 74 yards on 5 of 18 passing. Red Wing had 18 yards rushing, with the Tigers finishing with 10.
Up next for the Wingers (1-8) are the Winhawks, who beat Red Wing 56-8 in Week 7. It will be a tall task for the Wingers to pull an upset, but the game is just the next step in Freier's process.
“Like usual, you take it a game at a time. We're letting this one sink in and we'll get back at it (Thursday),” Freier said. “(The players) have become accustomed to coming in and breaking down film, doing walk-throughs and then hitting it hard. For us, to generate consistent success, it doesn't matter who or where you play, you have to go in believing you can win. Their resilience has got better as the year has gone on. And we'll do that on Saturday.”