The Austin Packers football team, the No. 5 seed in the Section 1AAAAA playoffs was looking to wrap up the 2020 season on a winning note Tuesday night at the Wescott Athletic Complex versus the sixth-seeded Northfield Raiders, and although the Packers dominated time of possession and number of plays run in the first half, they were held off the scoreboard and the Raiders running game took over in the second half in a 17-0 Northfield win.
After a muffed kickoff runback, Austin started the first drive of the game on their own 3-yard line, and a fumble on the fifth play of the drive was recovered Northfield at the Packer 26. Austin’s defense answered right back, though, as Raiders quarterback Cole Stanchina was separated from the football on the second play of the ensuing drive and the Packers recovered at their 21.
Northfield’s defense forced a three-and-out, and after a punt, the Raiders took over possession at the Austin 41-yard line. A 31-yard pass from Stanchina to leading wide receiver Ethan Lanthier moved the ball into the red zone, but the Packer defense stiffened and forced a 36-yard field goal attempt by Raider kicker Charlie Pratt, which he converted to give Northfield a 3-0 lead.
Austin then started to dominate time of possession and number of plays run in their next two drives, as the Packers ran 24 plays to three for the Raiders, but a 10-play drive ended with a punt, and a 14-play drive stalled at the Northfield 25. Each teams’ defense forced a punt on the following two drives, but a fumble by the Raiders’ Blake Mellgren was recovered by Austin at the Raider 32 late in the first half.
On the ensuing drive, sophomore quarterback Jack Lang, who started the game due to Teyghan Hovland being in concussion protocol after the Mankato East game last Wednesday found wide receiver Joe Ewing on a 16-yard pass play to put the Austin in scoring position, but the drive stalled, and the snap for a potential game-tying field goal was bobbled, leaving the score at 3-0 at the half.
Austin’s defense forced a punt after five plays on the first drive of the second half, and the Packers took over after a punt on their own 36. Northfield’s defense stepped up, though, and forced a turnover on downs after four plays at the Packer 45. On the fourth play of the ensuing drive, halfback Josh Johnson busted loose on a run up the middle and sprinted 29 yards for a Raider touchdown and a 10-0 lead after the extra point.
Henry Tolbert ran the ensuing kickoff back 39 yards for Austin to the Packer 49, and a 24-yard pass from Lang to Gage Manahan on 4th and 9 moved the ball into the red zone, but after eight plays, Northfield forced a 33-yard field goal attempt. The snap for the attempt was low, and kicker Joe Ewing was tackled trying to run for a first down to give the Raiders the ball at their 16.
Northfield was forced to punt after six plays, but the Raiders defense forced Austin to punt after five plays and Northfield took over possession at their 31-yard line. The Raiders went almost exclusivley to the run in the second half with a wishbone formation and two tight ends, and they utilized that strategy on the ensuing drive to put the game away as Blake Mellgren, who had success on the drive running behind the right side of Northfield’s offensive line plowed into the end zone from three yards out to cap a 10-play, 69 yard touchdown drive which gave the Raiders a 17-0 lead after the extra point.
Any hopes Austin had of a late second-half comeback were dashed when linebacker Michael Rivera picked off a Lang pass on the ensuing drive, and he ran the ball back to the Packer 15, where Northfield took a knee on three straight plays to run out the clock and clinch the win.
Lang passing in the game for Austin was 7 for 22 for 61 yards and an interception, and Gage Manahan led the Packers in receiving with five catches for 49 yards. Joseph Walker was the leading rusher for Austin with 11 carries for 34 yards, while Mason O’Connor toted the ball 12 times for 28 yards.
Austin finishes the season with a record of 1-6. In other games in the Section 1AAAAA playoffs from Tuesday night, No. 1 seed Owatonna claimed yet another section title with a fourth-quarter safety to knock off No. 2 seed Rochester Mayo 30-28, and No. 3 seed Rochester Century edged fourth-seeded Rochester John Marshall for third place in the section 28-26.