Albany getting used to tougher competition
Playing at the Class 4A level was an eye-opener for Albany last season.
The Huskies finished with their first losing season since 1994 in a 4-6 campaign. It was the first losing year for 12th-year head coach Mike Kleinschmidt.
“I found out there is a fine line between winning and losing,” Kleinschmidt said. “I was always taught that by the head coaches here before me. Last year we happened to be on the wrong side of the line. We’re trying to amend that. We want to get back on that winning side this year.”
Things don’t get any easier for the Huskies this season. The Granite Ridge Conference has proven to be tough, with the likes of Becker, Foley and St. Cloud Cathedral.
“We found out that Class 4A football is more challenging last year,” senior running back Nick Mergen said. “But I think we’ll rise to the challenge this season. We took our lumps, but we’re ready for the competition this year.”
Albany’s offense will be built around junior quarterback Taylor Fourre, quarterback/split end Zac Tomsche, Mergen and senior running back Shane Olmscheid. Mergen was the Huskies’ leading rusher last season with 580 yards on 89 carries and two touchdowns.
The Huskies still don’t have an overpowering offensive line, but will continue to pound the ball on the ground. After all, it is Albany tradition.
“We always take a lot of pride in running the ball,” Olmscheid said. “We like our smash-mouth football. Everybody knows what we’re going to do, but they still have to stop it.”
The offensive line returns junior Danny Odenthal and seniors Tyler Birr and Jordan Kittleson. Tight end Kenny Weber also is back.
“We’ve gotten a little bulkier over the past year,” Tomsche said. “We have quite a few guys back with experience. It’s nice having all of them back.”
Tomsche could share time at quarterback with Fourre. Fourre took over for Tomsche midway through last season when a concussion ended Tomsche’s season. Tomsche could get time in the backfield and at wide receiver during the season.
Albany’s defensive secondary was burned badly at times last season. But the Huskies return eight players on the defensive side that could help slow down aerial attacks this season.
“Teams threw against us and had some success,” Kleinschmidt said. “Our kids are working hard there to get better. We’re an aggressive team that has worked hard in the secondary. It’s been a point of emphasis in camp.
“Other teams have raised the bar with their passing games and we have to catch up.”