HS FB Preview: Albert Lea Tigers playing the long game and sense progress coming

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(ABC 6 News) — It’s not the first time Paul Dunn has coached a football team named the Tigers.

But unlike the 18 years he spent at Springfield, success at Albert Lea has been much harder to find.

“You got to have patience,” Dunn asserted. “As they buy in more and more, we’ll see better attendance at weight room, our numbers rebounding, that can snowball…”

And the team feels that progress — even after a winless year — is growing as noted by the influx of fresh players in the offseason. The incoming depth is a product of new team recruiter Kaylene Jensen, believed to be the first female football coach in the Big 9 Conference by Coach Dunn.

“She’s done a wonderful job helping us recruit athletes,” Dunn complimented. “She is in charge of monitoring grades and discipline, she helps out with special teams, she helps keep me organized on the sideline on Friday night.”

“I believe she’s a good fit for this team, she’s really been helping kids stay eligible,” Tigers running back/linebacker Cory Laskowske added. “All throughout the summer, she’s really helped, I know at least a couple of us seniors stay eligible for the season.”

On the field, Coach Dunn’s option offense is cracking down on last year’s turnover issues. Meanwhile, the defense has a new look with a scheme that’s proved easier for players to adapt to.

“Well, I feel that this defense all-around together just kind of mixes our teams’ abilities and puts them on the field really well together,” Laskowske mentioned. “Whether that’s pass rushing or staying in coverage.”

“A lot of it is with the upperclassmen,” Tiger wide receive/safety Max Edwin said. “And they’re teaching how to run the defense well, letting underclassmen learn too.”

Coach Dunn knows turning Albert Lea into a winning team is still going to take more time. But he’s surrounded by more players than ever that are willing to reach that goal and are convinced victory is inevitable in 2022.

“We’re hoping to keep these games close this year,” Laskowske said. “We’re not going for what we had last year with the blowouts and everything like that.”

“There’s a lot of little eyes watching us every day and it’s important that we set the example for the community,” Coach Dunn concluded.

The Tigers kick-off 2022 this Friday at home against Faribault, game time is at 7 PM.