Austin Packers football falls to Northfield 35-7 in season opener Friday evening

The Austin Packers football team kicked off the 2022 season on a very warm and muggy Friday evening at Memorial Field in Northfield versus the Raiders in a Big Southeast Conference Red Division matchup, and it was the Raiders running game behind a big, physical offensive line that proved to be one of the biggest differences in a 35-7 Raiders win.

Austin won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half, giving the first possession of the game to Northfield, who set the tone for the contest on their first drive with an eight-play, all runs, 60-yard drive, capped off by a 4-yard touchdown run by running back Charles Monaghan.  Kicker Stephen Kallestad’s extra point clanged off the left upright and the Raiders led 6-0.

The Packers started their first drive at their own 20, but they were forced into a three-and-out and after a punt, Northfield had great field position at the Austin 35.  After a 29-yard run by quarterback Kamden Kaiser, it was Monaghan plowing into the end zone from a yard out to cap a three-play, 35-yard touchdown drive, and Kaiser’s 2-point conversion run put the Raiders into the lead 14-0.

After a squib kick from Northfield kicker Stephen Kallestad was recovered by Austin’s Toby Holtz at the Packer 43, Austin’s offense took advantage of the good field position and embarked on a 12-play drive, highlighted by a 12-yard pass on 4th and 9 from quarterback Jack Lang to running back Tommy Fritz, who sat out last season with a knee injury.  Northfield’s defense stiffened, though, and the Packers turned the ball over on downs to the Raiders at their 22.  Austin put themselves right back in the game on the ensuing Northfield drive when Kaiser fired a pass into the right flat that Packer safety Dakota Retterath stepped in front of at the Austin 44, and Retterath raced 56 yards for a pick-6 touchdown and a 14-7 score after kicker Cale Tupy’s extra point.

Momentum would only stay with the Packers a short time, unfortunately, as the Raiders embarked on a 19-play, 63-yard march on the ensuing drive, one of the biggest plays being a 7-yard pass from Kaiser to wide receiver Jake Geiger on 4th and 6 to the Austin 3-yard line.  Two plays later, Monaghan plowed into the end zone from a yard out for his third touchdown of the half and a 21-7 Northfield lead at the half.

The Packers were looking to put themselves back into the game with the first possession of the second half, but the bounce of the ball did not go their way to start as Kallestad’s squib kick was recovered by the Raiders at the Austin 40.  After a 35-yard pass from Kaiser to wide receiver Austin Koep on the first play of the drive, running back Cameron Mellgren capped the 2-play drive with a 4-yard touchdown run and a 28-7 Raider lead early in the third quarter.  The Packers started the ensuing drive at their own 23, but were forced to turn the ball over on downs to Northfield at their 46-yard line.  Eleven plays later, the Raiders put up what turned out to be the last score of the game when Kaiser rolled to his right after a play-action fake and found big tight end Dominic Dimaggio for a 27-yard touchdown pass for the 35-7 final.

Austin will play their home opener at Art Hass Stadium Friday night versus the Rochester John Marshall Rockets, who are also 0-1 after falling to defending Class AAAAA champion Mankato West 23-0 in Rochester Friday night in a game called at the half due to frequent lightning in the area.  You’ll hear the game on AM 1480 KAUS, with the Austin Packers pre-game show on the air at 6:30 p.m., and kickoff at 7:00 p.m.  A reminder that you can listen to the game worldwide via our webpage at myaustinminnesota.com, and on the I Heart Radio and radio.com apps.

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