Last fall, the Storm Lake football team made the 2003 homecoming game a memorable one, scoring in the last 30 seconds to beat Algona 19-18.
Tornado kicker Jose Martinez kicked four field goals in the contest, including kicks of 46- and 42 yards.
"It was a tough loss and a game we easily could have won," said Algona coach Brad Heitman. "Except for the opening drive, they never got inside our 20-yard line until the last play of the game that beat us."
The two teams will hook up again Friday night in Algona in the Class 3A, District 1 opener for both teams.
"Looking at the scores of our first two games and Storm Lake's first two games, this is going to be another close one," said Heitman. "We expect it to go down to the wire just like last year."
Added third-year Storm Lake coach Bill McCabe: "It's going to be a game between two pretty even teams."
Even, yes, but in no way are the teams similar.
The Tornadoes like to run to set up their potent passing game while Algona is and has traditionally been a run-oriented team.
"It's a totally different offense to prepare for than last week," said McCabe.
Indeed, last week, the Tornadoes lost a 31-24 decision to pass-oriented Cherokee in a non-district game. Record-breaking Cherokee quarterback Kory Stephen's passed for 362 yards but had to rally his team from a 21-10 half-time deficit.
"Our game with Algona will be a different type of match for us," said McCabe. "They are a very big, physical ball club that likes to run the ball right at you.
"Our key will be to keep making first downs on offense and keep the ball away from them. And we want to make them have to pass the ball and get them to change their offensive personality a little bit."
The Tornadoes faced a running-oriented team in Sheldon in its 2004 opener two weeks ago and the defense had a stellar outing in a 34-7 victory.
Meanwhile, the good news for McCabe and crew is that the team enters its first district game healthy. Last week in Cherokee, all-district wide receiver Ben Thompson went down with a deep arm bruise while receiver Alex Kwikkel was forced to sit at times with muscle cramps.
"We though initially that Ben might have torn a muscle in that arm, but it was just a very deep bruise," McCabe said. "He'll be ready to go Friday and fortunately, so will Alex."
Algona opened the season two weeks ago at home by beating pass-oriented Clear Lake 17-14. The Bulldogs followed that up with a 20-17 loss to rival and state-ranked Algona Garaging.
"We've been very balanced on offense in that we've used four running backs and all of them are within 20 yards of each other," Heitman said. "And we've played well defensively at times."
The Bulldogs, who return eight starters off last year's 2-7 team, enter Friday's game averaging 191 rushing yards per game and 67 passing per contest.
"We've played two very good football teams to start the season," added Heitman. "They've both given us tough tests, and that's a positive for us."
The Bulldogs are led on offense by returning all-district quarterback Brian Hoover, a 5-foot-11, 180-pound senior. In 2003, Hoover piled up 1,000 yards.
"About half of that was running and the other half was passing," said Heitman. "This is Brian's third year as our starting quarterback and that's always an asset. He knows our offense well and is a strong runner and does all right throwing the ball."
Up front, Algona is led by 6-foot-3, 280-pound offensive/defensive tackle Justin Limbaugh. The mammoth senior is a Division I prospect who's being recruited by Iowa, Iowa State and Kansas.
"He's very tough," McCabe said. "He'll present some problems for us."
Added Heitman: "Offensively, we want to establish the run first, but we also think we're very capable of throwing the ball.
"But Storm Lake will be another tough test for us, especially the way they spread the field and with their great speed and good athletes."
And Heitman hasn't forgotten about Martinez, either.
"He's a big weapon for them," the coach said. "Last year, he kept them in the game single-handedly until they won it in the last play."
Last week, Martinez kicked a 42-yard field goal for Storm Lake's only points of the second half. But quarterback Ryan Brandt, who's stepped right in for the departed Nick Sorbe without missing a beat, also passed for close to 260 yards.
In addition, senior running back Jay Severson was just short of 100 yards on the night, rushing for 98.
Storm Lake's loss last week was caused in part by crucial penalties. The Tornadoes were penalized 15 times, including an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty with Storm Lake on the Cherokee two that snuffed out a scoring drive in the fourth quarter.
"We've got to avoid penalties and turnovers," added McCabe. "And a key to stopping their running game will be to control them on first down and force them into passing situations."
He added that depth could come into play, just like he suspected it would against Cherokee.
"Our guys up front on defense could get pretty tired with their big offensive line pounding on them all night," he said. "So we want to control the time of possession on offense."