Arch-rivals collide in Olson#039;s final home game

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 1, 2002

LEROY -- It may come as a surprise to many, but LeRoy-Ostrander football coach Stan Olson could handle ending his career with a loss to arch-rival Grand Meadow in Saturday's 9-man Section 1A finals in LeRoy.

But he wouldn't mind winning either.

Olson is set to retire at the end of this -- his 31st -- season at the helm of the storied Cardinal program. LeRoy-Ostrander meets Grand Meadow Saturday at 1:30 p.m. in LeRoy for the rights to advance to the eight-team state tournament field in 9-man football.

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The Cardinals have qualified for state each of the past three seasons, reaching the semifinals at the Metrodome last year before falling to eventual champion Hillcrest Lutheran Academy. LeRoy-Ostrander (8-1) has 10 state tournament appearances in its past while Grand Meadow (7-2) has made it just three times, most recently in 1997.

The two rival programs have split the last eight meetings, including a 21-7 L-O triumph during the regular season that was tied 7-7 until the final minute of the game. Saturday's pairing should be just as competitive.

"It could have gone either way, and that could happen again certainly," Olson said. "It should be an exciting one. I expect very much the same type of game -- two very good teams battling it out."

Olson has a 221-90 career record (.711) entering his final home game at LeRoy. The winner of Section 1 will play at Verndale (10-0) in the opening round of state. Verndale, an 11-time state qualifier, knocked off Isle in the Section 4 finals, 42-14, Thursday night at the Fargodome.

"This is not Olson against Sloan," said Grand Meadow coach Gary Sloan. "It's Grand Meadow and LeRoy-Ostrander for the championship.

"I have a lot of respect for Stan, he's a very good coach. If his last loss comes against us, obviously I'd be very happy for that."

The relationship between the two head coaches is not as sour as some have been led to believe. The two combatants mean business on the field of battle, naturally, but they also understand that the rivalry stays inside the stadium.

"Gary and I are very competitive people," Olson said. "I consider us to be good friends, but I'm going to try to beat his brains out, and I'm sure he's going to try to do the same.

"It would not kill me to lose to them, believe it or not. I love to win, my career has been very fortunate and it's been almost everything I want it to be."

LeRoy-Ostrander has twice advanced to the state finals, losing to Chokio-Alberta in 1993 and Cromwell in 1995. Both L-O and Grand Meadow have put their stock into improving and diversifying their offenses for Saturday's Section 1 tilt.

For Olson, Saturday's game means one more trip to the state tournament. For Grand Meadow it is a chance to move out from underneath the umbrella that has been L-O's slight dominance.

"He's a legend," Sloan said of Olson. "We've got a strong program in Grand Meadow, but we've been somewhat in their shadow. Not in this area, but to the rest of the state. This is a chance to step out of that, but more importantly it's a chance to play next week in state.

"All we want is the opportunity. We'll do what it takes."

Call Ross Thede at 434-2234 or e-mail him at