Austin Freerksen, a senior running back for the Byron Bears who will be playing football for the UMD Bulldogs next year ran for 202 yards and four touchdowns as the Bears jumped out to a 28-0 lead on their way to a 35-14 win over the Austin Packers at Art Hass Stadium in the Packers’ home opener Saturday night.
Byron’s defense, which had shut out Albert Lea and Winona to start the season were at it again early Saturday night as on the first possession of the game, defensive lineman Easton Hulke sacked Austin quarterback Teyghan Hovland, forced him to fumble, and then recovered that fumble in the end zone for a quick 7-0 Bears lead after Jon Lutzi’s extra point.
After a punt by Austin on their next possession, the Bears started from their own 36 and Freerksen reeled off a 39-yard run in the ensuing five-play, 64 yard touchdown drive as he later took it in from the five to give Byron a 14-0 lead after the extra point by Bradley Pavon.
Austin was forced into a three-and-out on their next drive and after a punt, Byron took over possession at their own 44. On the fourth play of the ensuing drive, senior quarterback Drew Scheuer kept the ball on the read option and sprinted for 15 yards and a first-and-goal situation at the Packer 7. Freerksen moved the pile over the goal line on the next play, and Cameron Schmidt’s extra point gave the Bears a 21-0 lead.
Byron’s defense forced another three-and-out, and this time they took over at their own 48 after an Austin punt. After a 2-yard run by Freerksen on first down, Scheuer went to the air off of play-action and found tight end Jake Braaten for a gain of 25 yards to the Packer 18. On the next play, Freerksen took a hand-off to the right side, found his way to the sideline and sprinted into the end zone to boost the Bears’ lead to 28-0 after the extra point.
Austin had the ball for six plays on the ensuing drive before turning the ball over on downs to the Bears at their 44, but the Packer defense forced a three-and-out and Austin took over at their own 40 after a punt. The Packer offense then took the initiative and went on the march deep into Byron territory, where sophomore wide receiver Tommy Fritz ran for five yards on 4th and 4 to the Bears 20 on the 10th play of the drive. Two plays later, Hovland found Fritz open in the back of the end zone for an 18-yard touchdown pass to put the Packers on the board at 28-6 after the extra point clanged off the right upright.
Byron then took over on their own 17 after Joe Ewing’s kickoff and had the ball for 10 plays at the end of the half, but Austin’s defense stiffened and a 47-yard field goal attempt on the last play of the half fell fall short to leave the score 28-6 at the half.
After a scoreless third quarter, Austin took possession at their 20 after Byron missed another field goal, this one wide left from 25-yards out. On the first play of the drive, the Packers tried a little razzle-dazzle as wide receiver Novell Jackson took a pitch on what looked like a jet sweep around right end, but he suddenly let fly with a pass deep down the middle of the field and found Gage Manahan behind the Byron defense for a 36-yard gain to the Bears 46. Hovland later found Jackson with a pass over the middle for 32 yards to move the ball into the red zone and on 4th and goal from the 6, Hovland went back to pass, then stepped up in the pocket and found running room to his right into the end zone to halve the Byron lead at 28-14 after he found Ethan Owens in the end zone on a 2-point conversion pass.
Austin’s defense then kept the momentum rolling the Packers way as they forced a three-and-out, but Byron’s defense also stepped up and also forced a three-and-out after recording one of their four sacks in the game. The Bears were forced to punt again on their next drive, thanks in large part to a shotgun snap over the quarterback Scheuer’s head for a loss of 21 yards on third down, but after a Bears punt, Austin was forced to turn the ball over on downs to Byron at the Packer 36. On the second play of the following drive, Freerksen found a gap between right guard and tackle and sprinted into the end zone from 34 yards out for the final score of the game with 3:20 left to make the final 35-14.
Joseph Walker led Austin in rushing with 14 carries for 48 yards and Teyghan Hovland carried the ball 15 times for 22 yards and a touchdown. Hovland was 9 for 16 passing for 61 yards and a touchdown, and Gage Manahan snagged two passes for 41 yards, Novell Jackson had one catch for 32 yards and Tommy Fritz had five receptions for 12 yards and a touchdown.
With the loss, Austin falls to 1-2 on the season, and they will play host to the 1-2 Faribault Falcons next Friday night at Art Hass Stadium. You’ll hear the game on US Country 99.9 next Friday night, with the Ausitn Packers pre-game show set for 6:30, and kickoff at 7:00 p.m.