The Austin Packers football team played host to the Mankato West Scarlets, the No. 1 team in the state in Class AAAAA on a sun-splashed Saturday afternoon in a Big Southeast District Red Division matchup at Art Hass Stadium, and it was junior quarterback Bart McAnninch throwing five touchdown passes to four different receivers and running for another as the Scarlets led 38-0 at the half on their way to a 51-3 win.
The Scarlets received the opening kickoff and marched 70 yards in 10 plays, with McAnninch finding wide receiver Jalen Smith on a fade route in the back right corner of the end zone for a 7-0 lead after kicker Alex Akim’s extra point. Starting from their own 14 after the ensuing kickoff, the Packers were forced into a three-and-out by West’s 4-3 defense, and a punt gave the back to the Scarlets at the Austin 45, one of five drives for the game that would start for Mankato West in Austin territory. After a 30-yard pass from McAnninch to sophomore wide receiver Maurice Staley moved the ball into the red zone, the fourth play of the drive saw senior running back Elijah Bollman rumble 10 yards into the end zone and a 13-0 West lead after the extra point was blocked.
The Packers were forced to start their next drive from their 20 after a touchback, and quarterback Jack Lang was intercepted on the third play of the ensuing drive, with the ball being taken back to the Austin 5-yard line. Mankato West came out in a wildcat formation with running back Jackson Froderman set to take the shotgun snap, but the snap sailed over his head, and he recovered at the Packer 15-yard line for a loss of 10 yards. The Scarlets moved the ball back to the 6, and on fourth down, a 22-yard field goal from Akim gave West a 16-0 lead.
Austin then mounted their best drive of the first half after the ensuing kickoff as starting from their 20, a 10-yard run by running back Tommy Fritz and a 17-yard pass from Lang to Fritz on a wheel route out of the backfield gave Austin a pair of first downs and moved the ball out to the Packer 49-yard line. The Scarlet defense, though, stiffened from there, and the Packers were forced to punt, giving the ball back to West at their 12-yard line. The Scarlets then mounted an 11-play, 88-yard touchdown drive, which was aided by a critical personal foul penalty against Austin when West was looking at 3rd and 8 from their 14, and a pass interference call against the Packers later in the drive helped the Scarlets move the ball into the red zone again, and McAnninch capped off the drive by running into the end zone from 5 yards out to give West a 24-0 lead after Jackson Froderman’s 2-point conversion run.
Austin was forced into a three-and-out on their next drive, and a 21-yard punt return by Damian Riewe gave Mankato West excellent field position at the Packer 30. Six plays later, McAnninch found wide receiver Collin Johnson in the end zone on a 9-yard touchdown pass and a 31-0 West lead. Starting their next drive from their own 26, Austin again was forced to punt the ball away after three plays, and another punt return into Packer territory to the 43 gave the Scarlets good field position yet again. West went up top on the first play, and McAnninch lofted a long pass down the middle that found wide receiver Brody Koberoski in stride for a 43-yard touchdown pass and a 38-0 lead at the half.
Austin received the second-half kickoff and mounted their best drive of the game, as Lang found wide receiver Isaac Osgood on a deep fade to the right side of the field for a gain of 31 yards, which wound up being the biggest play of the game yardage wise for the Packers. The Austin offense was able to move the ball to the Scarlets 17-yard line, and on 4th down, kicker Joe Ewing capped off the 11-play, 53-yard drive with a 34-yard field goal and a 38-3 score at that point.
Mankato West answered with a 6-play, 65-yard touchdown drive, capped off by McAnninch tossing the ball to wide receiver Elijah Green as he was cutting in front of McAnninch on a jet sweep around left end. Green was able to turn the ball upfield and scored from 43 yards out to give West a 45-3 lead at that point. After an interception by West’s Colin Johnston on the fourth play of Austin’s next drive gave the ball back to the Scarlets on the Packer 29, McAnninch found Johnston on a middle screen on 4th and 13 from the 32-yard line for his fifth touchdown pass of the game for the 51-3 final.
Austin is now 1-5 on the season, and the Packers will be on the road for their next game in Rochester next Friday night versus the Mayo Spartans, and you’ll hear the game on AM 1480 KAUS, with the pre-game show coming your way at 6:30 p.m., and kickoff next Friday night from Spartan Field at 7:00 p.m.