After an opening-round bye, Morris Area/Chokio-Alberta kicks off Section 6AAA action against Albany tonight at Big Cat Stadium.
For the first time since the fall of 1989, the Tiger football team heads into the playoffs undefeated. That season the Tigers were also 8-0 going into the playoffs. They went on to win three more games and take the section title, but their hopes for another Prep Bowl ended with a 43-41 loss at Rushford-Peterson.
Another similarity between this season and 1989 is the number of seniors on the roster. The 1989 team was led by seniors in all categories.
Quarterback Kip Kieso completed 146 of 232 passes for 1,848 yards. The top receiver was Chris Kieso who grabbed 52 passes for 742 yards and 14 touchdowns. The leading rusher was Todd Hottovy with 119 carries for 807 net yards and 12 TDs. And the leading defenseman was Darren Schultz who had 25 solo tackles and assisted on another 90, along with two interceptions.
The 1989 Tigers, coached by Jerry Witt, were coming off a 12-2 season that ended with a loss to Breckenridge in the state championship game. The 1988 season was the closest Witt and the Tigers have gotten to a state title.
While it has been 23 years since the Tigers recorded an unbeaten season, prior to 1989 there was a 50-year stretch of at least one loss during the season. The 1939 Tigers were also 8-0.
According to Witt's records, the only other team that finished undefeated was in the inaugural football season of 1901 when the Morris team was 4-0-1.
To keep that unbeaten recorded going, along with the football season, the Tigers need to defeat Albany tonight. As the No. 4 seed, Albany defeated Melrose 24-6 Tuesday to advance to the semifinals. The Huskies are 5-4 this season, but have a tradition of being a football powerhouse.
"They're good. Their quarterback is really elusive," explained Witt. "They run a wishbone offense in a hurry-up style which gets teams caught off guard."
The Tigers have had a lot of time to practice with nine days off.
"We got a nice break," said Witt.
Overall, the Tigers are staying healthy.
"We've got a few dings and nicks, but nothing that will keep us from competing," added Witt.
Meanwhile, in the other Section 6AAA semi-final game, No. 3 Litchfield (4-5) plays at No. 2 New London-Spicer (5-4).
The winners of tonight's games will face off Friday at 5:45 on the campus of St. Cloud State University.