The Austin Packers football team renewed its I-90 rivalry with the Albert Lea Tigers in the regular season finale for both squads at rainy, windy and at times foggy Jim Gustafson Field Wednesday evening, and it was the Packers using a big second quarter offensivley and a stifling defense throughout the game to down the Tigers 45-6.
Albert Lea won the opening coin toss and deferred to the second half, giving Austin the first chance offensively in the game. Starting from their own 20, the Packers mounted a 14-play drive that was derailed by three holding penalties, forcing a punt that went into the end zone and enabled Albert Lea to start their first drive at their 20. Austin’s defense, though, would establish their dominance that would continue the entire game on that first drive as they held the Tigers to a three-and-out, and the Packers took over at their 49-yard line after a Tiger punt.
A 24-yard pass from quarterback Jack Lang to wide receiver Isaac Osgood quickly moved Austin into Albert Lea territory, and on the fourth play of the drive from the Tiger 12-yard line, running back Joseph Walker rumbled into the end zone and a 7-0 Packer lead after one quarter of play after Joe Ewing’s extra point.
Albert Lea was forced to start their next drive from their own 11-yard line after a holding penalty on the kickoff, and Austin’s defense forced another three-and-out, which gave the Packers the ball at the Tiger 27 after a 23-yard punt. A 25-yard pass from Lang to wide receiver Manny Guy moved the ball to the Albert Lea 2-yard line, and on the sixth play of the drive, Walker took the ball into the end zone from a yard out and a 14-0 Packer lead.
Things went from bad to worse for Albert Lea on their next drive as starting from their own 21, a hook-and-ladder play on the first play of the drive led to a fumble that was recovered by Austin’s Sam Winkels at the Tiger 6-yard line. On the very next play, Walker ran the ball into the end zone for his third touchdown of the game and a 21-0 Packer lead.
Austin’s defense kept the pressure on as they forced yet another three-and-out on Albert Lea’s next drive, giving the Packers the ball back at their 43 after a punt. Austin again moved the ball swiftly down the field and on the ninth play of the drive, Lang kept the ball on the read option and scored from six yards out, giving the Packers a 28-0 lead after the extra point.
Albert Lea earned their only first down of the half on their next drive, but they were forced to punt after five plays and Austin took over on their own 39 late in the second quarter. A 36-yard pass from Lang to Guy put the Packers near the red zone, and with only :02 left in the half, Lang found Guy again in the end zone from 12 yards out and a 35-0 lead at the half. The touchdown marked the second game in a row where Austin scored a touchdown in the last :05 of the first half, and Austin ran 40 plays in the first half to Albert Lea’s 15 en route to a 28-point second quarter.
Austin’s defense, which would hold Albert Lea to 57 total yards and five first downs for the game forced a three-and-out to start the second half, and the Packers took over at their own 40 after a Tiger punt. Austin moved the ball 33 yards in seven plays, and the drive cumulated with a 37-yard field goal from Joe Ewing and a 38-0 Packer lead. Albert Lea’s only score came later in the third quarter when, after starting from Austin’s 27 after a Packer fumble, the Tigers put together a 12-play drive that was aided by pass interference and roughing the passer penalties on Austin, who committed 13 penalties in the game for a total of 115 yards. The Packer defense eventually forced a 4th down at the 8-yard line, and the Tigers lined up for a 25-yard field goal attempt by kicker Alex Palmer. Holder Tanner Conn took the snap and instead of placing the ball on the turf, he took the ball and ran away from a heavy Packer rush around left end for an 8-yard touchdown run and a 38-6 Austin lead after the extra point was blocked.
Austin’s defense accounted for the last score of the game in the fourth quarter when Isaac Stromlund intercepted a pass, his second interception of the game deep in Albert Lea territory and took the ball to the house from 14 yards out and a 45-6 final.
With the win, Austin winds up the regular season with a record of 1-7, and they will travel to Northfield to take on the Raiders in the quarterfinals of the Section 1AAAAA playoffs next Tuesday evening. The game will be a rematch from Week 1 of the regular season where the Raiders edged the Packers 21-20 at Art Hass Stadium. You’ll hear the game right here on AM 1480 KAUS, with the Austin Packers pre-game show on the air at 6:30 p.m., and kickoff from Northfield at 7:00 p.m.