The Austin Packers football team was looking for win number one of the season Friday evening as they played host to the New Prague Trojans at Art Hass Stadium, but it was the Trojans jumping out to a big lead after one quarter of play and holding off a spirited comeback effort by the Packers in a 56-30 win.
It was all New Prague in the first quarter as they received the opening kickoff after Austin won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half. The Trojans moved smartly down the field and capped a seven play, 68-yard drive on a four-yard touchdown run by fullback Brendan Pieper and took a 7-0 lead after Satchel Johnson’s extra point.
New Prague’s defense kept things going their way in the opening quarter as they forced three straight three-and-outs, and the Trojans’ offense tallied two more touchdowns on a 22-yard touchdown run by halfback Aiden Jackson and a one-yard touchdown plunge by quarterback Luke Shepard to take a 21-0 lead. After the third three-and-out, Austin’s defense forced a three-and-out of their own and the Packers took possession on their own 49 after a short punt. Austin’s Joseph Walker capped off a nine-play, 51-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run, and Joe Ewing’s extra point cut the New Prague lead to 21-7.
The Trojans answered with a touchdown drive of their own as taking possession at their 30, the Trojans marched 70 yards in eight plays, the last 25 of which were covered by Pieper on a bruising run up the middle and a 28-7 New Prague lead. Austin had an answer, though, as Lathan Wilson ran the ensuing kickoff back 40 yards to the Trojan 38-yard line. A holding penalty stymied the drive, though, and the Packers were forced to punt, but returner Ethan Chromy couldn’t handle Joe Ewing’s line drive, sidewinding punt, and the Packers recovered at the Trojan 3-yard line. Three plays later, Packer quarterback Jack Lang drove into the end zone from a yard out, and Ewing’s extra point cut the New Prague lead to 28-14.
Things got wilder from there as taking possession from their own 20 and trying to run out the first half clock, Trojan halfback Eddie Sirek fumbled, and Austin recovered at the New Prague 32 with only :15 left in the half. After Lang was sacked on first down, the Packers called timeout, and Lang found wide receiver Manny Guy for a 24-yard gain down the left sideline to the 9-yard line with only :01 left. Austin brought out kicker Joe Ewing, who drilled a 25-yard field goal from the left hashmark to cut New Prague’s lead at the half to 28-17, and the late surge also gave Austin momentum heading into the second half.
The Packers received the second half kickoff and were forced to punt after three plays, giving New Prague the ball at their 28-yard line. A 22-yard pass from Shepard to Pieper on the third play of the drive moved the ball into Austin territory, but Pieper then fumbled on the next play, and the Packers recovered at their 44. Lang found Wilson for a gain of 22 yards on the ensuing drive to move the ball into New Prague territory, and Lang capped off the eight-play drive with a 10-yard touchdown pass to Guy and a 28-24 Trojan lead after Ewing’s extra point.
Unfortunately for Austin, who wound up scoring 17 points off of three Trojan turnovers, that was as close as they would get as New Prague again had an answer as starting from their own 32, the Trojans moved the ball into Packer territory and converted a 3rd and 11 to the Austin 20-yard line. On the next play, the eighth of the drive, Shepard found Chromy on a 20-yard scoring strike and a 35-24 New Prague lead after the extra point.
Austin took possession on their 18 after the ensuing kickoff, and the Trojan defense kept momentum on the visiting side of the field by forcing a three-and-out to give the ball back to their offense at the Packer 45 after a punt by Ewing from the end zone. Halfback Eddie Sirek took a pitch from Shepard on the first play of the ensuing drive, sprinted through a gap off right tackle, got to the sideline and outran everyone to the end zone for a 42-24 New Prague lead.
The Packers weren’t going away anytime soon, though, as starting from their 20 after the ensuing kickoff, Austin’s offense moved the ball to their own 46, and on the eighth play of the drive, Lang found Guy in stride with a perfect deep ball down the left side of the field, and the 56-yard touchdown pass cut New Prague’s lead to 42-30 after a 2-point conversion attempt was no good.
Down 12 with 5:30 to go, Austin attempted an onsides kick, but New Prague’s Nick Geis recovered for the Trojans at their 49. Five plays later, Shepard zipped a pass over the middle and found tight end Nick Giesen open for a 20-yard touchdown pass and a 49-30 lead after the extra point. Austin’s number two offense then came into the game on the ensuing drive, and starting from their 23, a 20-yard pass from quarterback Brayden Bishop to wide receiver Peyton Ransom helped the Packers move into New Prague territory at the 35-yard line. But, on the fourth play of the drive, Bishop’s pass under duress was picked off by linebacker Kaden Lukkes at the Trojan 25, and Lukkes took the ball back the distance for a 75-yard interception return for a touchdown and the final 56-30 score.
With the loss, Austin falls to 0-3 on the season, and the Packers return to action next Saturday afternoon as they travel to Owatonna to face the Huskies. You’ll hear the game on AM 1480 KAUS, also online at myaustinminnesota.com, and on the I Heart Radio and Radio.com apps, with the Austin Packers pre-game show on the air at 12:30 next Saturday afternoon, and kickoff at 1:00 p.m.