Football: NLS Wildcats, Albany Huskies renew a great rivalry

Nov. 1—ST. CLOUD — It's Albany in the way of New London-Spicer's attempt at a second straight 6AAA football championship.

There's no need to tell Chad Gustafson what that means.

"They have a great tradition," the Wildcats head coach said. "They have a great program.

"When we were getting our program together we were using them as kind of a measuring stick."

Albany (7-3) plays NLS (7-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at St. Cloud State University. At stake is a berth in the state Class AAA playoffs.

For Albany, that would be its 21st appearance, but first since 2015. The Huskies won state titles in 1989 and '97 and finished second in 2000 and '05.

For NLS, it would be its seventh state appearance and second in a row. The Wildcats won a state title in 2009 and took second in 2013 and '14.

Gustafson, who has been coaching at NLS for 35 years, said that the Wildcats and Huskies are 11-11 against each other since 2006, "which is kind of when we got things rolling here (under Dan Essler)," he said.

Gustafson is in his second year as head coach. Albany has a new head coach in Mike Ellingson, who took over for Mike Kleinschmidt, who retired after the 2021 season.

Ellingson came to Albany from Triton, located in Dodge Center in southeastern Minnesota near Rochester. He was the head coach of the Cobras for four seasons.

He becomes Albany's fourth head coach since Pete Herges took over in 1948. Jim Mader, who is back on staff as an assistant this year, was the head coach from 1979-94. Kleinschmidt then became head coach.

Gustafson said little has changed under Ellingson's direction.

"They're similar with a little more emphasis on passing than they used to do," Gustafson said. "It's still Albany football."

That means an emphasis on the power running game and triple option.

Four backs gain the brunt of the yards: Isaac Evenson, Adam Dennis, Cole Panek and Ethan Meyer. Albany averages 237.8 yards rushing per game and 96.4 passing.

The Huskies also have one of the top defenses in Class AAA. They allow the fourth fewest points per game at 12.9 ppg. Meanwhile, NLS has the fourth-ranked offense at 40.2 ppg.

Much has been made of Wildcats offensive stars like junior running back Mason Delzer and senior wide receiver Brycen Christensen. But, Gustafson noted that his offensive line has had a tremendous year.

"It really has come along nicely," Gustafson said. "And it's basically been the same guys except for more one or two games where we had to shuffle a bit because of an injury.

"They've done a great job."

That's Luke Wosmek (6-foot-5, 235 pounds, Sr.) at right tackle, Marshel Johnson (6-1, 285, Jr.) at right guard, Brycen Bergh (6-3, 315, Sr.) at center, Jack Hanson (6-0, 220, Jr.) at left guard and Isaiah Klein (6-3, 205, Sr.) at left tackle.

They'll contend with a physical Albany defense, Gustafson said.

"They're pretty physical," he said.

Just as would be expected in a rivalry game.

"I'm thinking it'll be a really good game," Gustafson said. "I think it will be a great game."