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High School Football: New London-Spicer Wildcats' latest challenge: the 2-0 Albany Huskies

The long-time rivals meet at 7 p.m. Friday at Pederson Field

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New London-Spicer's Nick McKenzie (50) chases the quarterback out of the pocket during the Wildcats homecoming game against Dassel-Cokato on Sept. 20, 2019 from Pederson Field. Patrick Bernadeau/West Central Tribune

NEW LONDON — New London-Spicer faces a familiar foe for its home opener.

The Wildcats welcome Albany into town for a East Central District North Division showdown at 7 p.m. Friday from Pederson Field.

Since the Huskies joined Section 6AAA in 2015, the two teams have squared off nine times. Albany has won on six occasions, including a 28-0 shutout in the section semifinals to end NLS’ season last year.

In that playoff game, the Huskies carried the ball 42 times for 327 yards. Leading his team in rushing last year, Nolan Rueter was the key to Albany’s efforts. He had 196 rushing yards on 18 carries and two touchdowns.

Now a senior, Rueter will be in uniform on Friday. Fellow seniors Will Mergen and Tate Hoffarth are also major figures to the team’s running attack. However, the biggest player with how the Huskies move the ball is arguably their vaunted Broken Wing-T formation.

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Lined up tight with two tight ends, all three running backs — two in the backfield, the other lined up wide near a tight end — are options to carry the ball. Mix in an occasional quarterback-keeper, and Albany’s deception gives most defenses fits.

“You just don’t know who has the ball. They do a nice job of hiding the ball,” NLS head coach Dan Essler said.

Through two games against Zimmerman and Foley, Albany has churned out 627 yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground.

Essler believes the Wildcats’ recent history with the Huskies offers a large assist in preparing for this particular opponent. Collecting a pair of home victories against Albany in 2018, NLS has produced a formula for success before.

This week, the coaches are preaching to their players on defense to play disciplined and control their gaps. Albany’s offensive line features senior veterans Carter Thelen and Devin Ritter, but the other three are new starters.

Still, the Huskies offer new wrinkles to their offensive attack. Senior quarterback Isaiah Gerads is a passing threat and senior wide receiver Ethan Navratil is his main target.
“This year, they’ve got a quarterback (who) can throw the ball a little bit better than past years and they’ve got a receiver or two (who) can catch it,” Essler said. “They’re going to be a little bit more diverse this year than in years past, which will make them a little more difficult to stop.”

Albany doesn’t have a lot of players that play both sides of the ball, but Navaratil, Ritter and Thelen all do.

Navaratil hauled in an interception as part of four turnovers for the Huskies defense last week against Foley. Junior Carter Birr had a pair of interceptions.

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Thelen plays at linebacker. Ritter is a presence in the interior. Albany has allowed 12 points in two games this season.

“They’re usually really big and physical,” Essler said. “They’re real strong kids, so it’s definitely going to be a challenge for us.”

Sports Extra

For World Series coverage between the Tampa Bay Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers, see the West Central Tribune’s E-edition on-line at Epaper.Wctrib.com

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Players on the New London-Spicer football team run through agility ropes during the first day of fall practice on Sept. 28 from Pederson Field in New London. Joe Brown / West Central Tribune

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