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Are you ready for some football?
First tryouts for Rough Riders March 18
By Brian P. Heilman
The newly-named Winona/La Crosse Rough Riders semi-pro football team wants YOU to join their gridiron ranks.

The Winona-based club, which has been competing in the Mid-America Football League (MFL) for the past four summers, will spend March and April restocking their roster, just like the big boys in the NFL do.

Tryouts for the 2006 team are approaching rapidly, so break out the cleats and gym shorts, guys - it's time to get back into shape. The first tryout/mini-camp session will take place Saturday, March 18, from 8:30 a.m. to noon at WSU's Maxwell Field.

Subsequent tryouts will take place on April 8 at the La Crescent Community Hockey Center Field and April 22 at Maxwell Field. Each tryout falls on a Saturday, from 8:30 a.m. to noon.

Veteran and aspiring players are all invited to the tryouts, which are structured like a mini-camp or practice, said head coach and team president Paul Anderson.

Most current Rough Riders are former college or semi-pro players from the area, but the team invites anyone with interest in semi-pro football to show up.

This season, in order to expand the exposure of the team and more fairly represent the players' backgrounds, the team has adopted a new name.

"After several conversations with fans, players and advertisers, we decided that it would be in the best interest of the team to change the name from River City Rough Riders to Winona/La Crosse Rough Riders," said head coach and team president Paul Anderson.

"Half of our players are from the Winona area and half are from around La Crosse," Anderson said. "This new name gives recognition to both cities."

The Rough Riders, who have won the MFL's Organization of the Year award the past two seasons, will open up the 2006 season on July 8, and play ten games before the playoffs begin around Labor Day.

Anderson, co-founder of the team, invites any potential players, advertisers, volunteers or other interested parties to call the team at (608) 582-4528.

"We're a very community-focused non-profit organization," Anderson said. The team maintains strong relationships with several local organizations, from Big Brothers Big Sisters to local dance groups, karate programs and sports supply businesses, Anderson said.

"We've consistently been around a .500 record," Coach Anderson says, "but everybody has a really positive experience playing for us."

MFL teams play in Minnesota, Wisconsin and Iowa, with the majority focused in the Twin Cities metro area.

Whether as starting quarterback, lead sponsor, chain-gang volunteer or plain old fan, there are a variety of ways to get involved in what Anderson calls "the best semi-pro league in the country" here in Winona. 


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