The Austin Packers football team played host to Big Southeast District Red Division rival Owatonna for their annual Homecoming game at Art Hass Stadium Friday night, and in front of a big Homecoming crowd, Huskies running back Conner Grems raced 80 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the game to give Owatonna a lead they would not relinquish as they went on to win 34-7.
After Grems’ touchdown run to open the game, Austin started their first drive from their own 19, and a 20-yard pass play between quarterback Jack Lang and wide receiver Isaac Osgood gave Austin a first down to their own 40-yard line and set the drive in motion, but after the Packers were able to move the ball into Owatonna territory to the 39, the Huskies 3-4 defense held firm from there, forcing a turnover on downs. The Owatonna offense then started back the other way, and in a 10-play drive, nine of them runs, a 10-yard touchdown run by fullback Drew Kretlow put the Huskies ahead 14-0 after the extra point kick from senior kicker Drew Henson.
Things went from bad to worse for Austin on their next drive, as starting from their own 33 after a 21-yard kickoff return from Manny Guy, a pass over the middle on the second play of the drive was intercepted, and starting from the Packers 35, Owatonna turned the interception into seven points three plays later when Grems took a pitch from quarterback Jacob Ginskey and ran into the end zone from 22 yards out to make the score 21-0.
Now heading into the wind in the second quarter, Austin was forced into a three-and-out starting from their own 22, and a five-yard punt on 4th down gave Owatonna the ball at the Packer 24. A 15-yard personal foul against the Huskies moved them out of field goal range, and they were forced to punt, giving the Packers the ball back at their own 9-yard line. The Husky defense again forced a three-and-out, and another punt by Joe Ewing under a heavy rush into the wind gave Owatonna the ball at the Austin 29-yard line. This time the Huskies would not be denied, as on the second play of the drive, Ginsky found wide reciever Owen Beyer in the end zone with a 28-yard strike and a 28-0 Huskies lead after the extra point.
Starting from their own 20 after a touchback on the ensuing kickoff, Austin had the ball for four plays, but again the Owatonna defense forced a punt from deep in the Packers’ end of the field, giving the Huskies the ball at the Austin 30. A holding penalty wiped out an Owatonna touchdown pass, but on the fifth play of the drive, kicker Drew Henson booted a 45-yard field goal from the right hash mark to give the Huskies a 31-0 lead.
Again starting from their own 20 after a touchback, Austin’s Tommy Fritz reeled off a 27-yard run during the ensuing drive, the longest of the game for the Packers, but Owatonna’s defense forced yet another punt, and the Huskies took control of the ball at their own 35 late in the 2nd quarter with two timeouts left. Owatonna was able to move the ball into field goal range, thanks mostly to the right arm of Ginsky, and a diving catch by Beyer for 18 yards gave the Huskies first-and-goal at the Austin 8-yard line with :04 left in the half. After a timeout, Henson was brought on to boot a 24-yard field goal to cap off the six-play, 57 yard drive to make the score 34-0 Owatonna at the half.
The Packers received the 2nd half kickoff, and after another touchback, they started from their own 20, but were forced to punt after three plays. Austin then got their first break of the game when Owatonna punt returner Owen Beyer tried to field Joe Ewing’s line-drive punt on a pair of hops, but he fumbled and Brayden Bishop recovered for the Packers at the Husky 45. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Jack Lang found Manny Guy with a perfect pass down the left sideline for a 45-yard touchdown and a 34-7 score after Ewing’s extra point.
The touchdown would turn out to be the only score of the second half as Austin played Owatonna tough in the rest of the way, as a Sam Eyre interception stopped the next Husky drive after 13 plays, and Dakota Retterath picked off a Ginsky pass on Owatonna’s next drive at the Packer 22 and dashed 75 yards to the Huskies 3-yard line when he was knocked out of bounds by wide receiver Owen Beyer. The play wound up saving a touchdown as on third and goal from the 1-yard line, a Packer fumble gave the ball back to Owatonna at their own 1-yard line. The Huskies were later forced to punt after an Austin quarterback sack, one of four they registered in the game to one for Owatonna, and the Packers also wound up winning the turnover battle, forcing three Huskies turnovers to two of their own.
With the loss, Austin is now 1-3 on the season, and the Packers are now off until next Saturday night when they travel to Rochester to take on the Century Panthers on their Homecoming, with kickoff at 6 p.m. You’ll hear the game on AM 1480 KAUS, with the Austin Packers pre-game show on the air at 5:30 p.m., and kickoff at 6:00 p.m.