The Austin Packers football team found themselves taking on a ranked opponent for the second week in a row at Art Hass Stadium Friday night as Rochester Mayo, the No. 6 team in the state in the latest Class 5A poll came calling on Senior Night, and five touchdowns from senior running back Noah Smith, three rushing, one receiving and a kickoff return for a score enabled the Spartans to hold off a very game Austin squad 42-20.
Mayo put the ball in play offensivley first as Austin won the opening toss and deferred to the second half. The Spartans, who came into the game averaging just under 375 yards a game and just over 42 points per game offensivley were looking at third and long from their own 16 when pass interference was called on the Packers on a deep pass down the middle from quarterback Bennett Ellsworth, giving the Spartans new life on the drive. On the thirteenth play of the drive, Smith went into the end zone from seven yards out, and Mario Magnotto’s extra point put Mayo ahead 7-0.
Austin let the Spartans know they were going to be in a game on their first drive as starting from their own 23, the Packer running game, keyed by running back Joseph Walker and the running of quarterback Jack Lang on the read option moved the ball into Spartan territory when Lang found wide receiver Manny Guy on a 36-yard pass down to the Mayo 5-yard line. On the next play, Lang kept the ball on the read option and raced into the end zone for an Austin touchdown, capping off an eight-play, 77-yard drive that tied the game at seven after Joe Ewing’s extra point.
Mayo quickly took back momentum on the ensuing kickoff, however, as Smith, who also runs back kicks for the Spartans took the kick in at the 4-yard line, and he was able to find a seam to the left side and outran everyone to the end zone for a 96-yard kickoff return and a 14-7 Mayo lead after one quarter of play.
Austin took possession on their own 24 on their next drive, and a 24-yard run from Walker helped to move the ball into Spartan territory, but the drive stalled after seven plays, and Mayo took over on the turnover on downs at their 33-yard line. A 46-yard pass from Ellsworth to wide receiver Cayden Holcomb gave the Spartans a first-and-goal at the Packer 3-yard line, and on the third play of the drive, Smith carried the ball into the end zone from three yards out and a 21-7 Mayo lead.
Austin started from their own 28-yard line after the ensuing kickoff, and a 16-yard pass from Lang to Aidan Pepper on 4th and 12 gave the Packers a first down, one of 21 they would register on the evening. The Spartan defense, though, again was able to force a turnover on downs, and Mayo took over for the second drive in a row at their 33-yard line. On the fifth play of the drive, Holcomb took in a hitch pass from Ellsworth along the left sideline, and he was able to make his way down the sideline and just inside the pylon for a 12-yard touchdown pass and a 28-7 Mayo lead after the extra point.
After a touchback, Austin took over at their 20-yard line late in the first half with two timeouts left. A 20-yard pass from Lang to Guy helped to move the ball into Spartan territory, and on the eighth play of the drive, Lang again found Guy, this time on a long pass down the left sideline and just inside the left front pylon of the end zone for a 43-yard touchdown pass and a 28-14 lead for Mayo with only :04 left in the half. Mayo’s Rudy Lozoya fielded a squib kick from Joe Ewing on the ensuing kickoff and was able to pitch the ball back to Smith, who found a bit of running room, but he was gang tackled just on the Austin side of the 50-yard line to end the half.
The Packers were able to carry momentum forward into the second half as they put together maybe their best drive of the season to start the half. Beginning at their own 20, the Austin running game of Walker and Lang, plus a 12-yard pass from Lang to Guy helped the Packers methodically move the ball down the field to the Mayo 14-yard line. On the fourteenth play of the drive, Walker took a handoff from Lang and broke off a bruising, tackle-breaking run up the middle for a 14-yard touchdown and a 28-20 Spartan lead after the extra point was blocked. The drive traveled 80 yards in 14 plays, and took 8:05 off the third quarter clock.
Mayo’s offense, though, had the answer as starting from their own 35-yard line after the kickoff, the Spartans moved the ball with a mix of run and pass to the Austin 18-yard line, and on the seventh play of the drive, Smith tallied his third rushing touchdown of the game from 18 yards out to give Mayo a 35-20 lead after the extra point.
Now late in the third quarter, Austin took over on their 44 after an onsides kick from Mayo was recovered by Kenny Cabeen. The Packer offense again was on the move, but forced into a 4th and 14 from the Mayo 30, a swing pass from Lang to Walker netted only 10 yards, giving the ball back to the Spartans at their 20. A 27-yard run by Smith on the ensuing drive and the passing of Ellsworth to Holcomb quickly moved the ball into Packer territory, and on the sixth play of the drive, Ellsworth found Smith on a seam route down the right side of the field for a 32-yard touchdown pass and a 42-20 Spartan lead in the 4th quarter.
Austin had one more chance offensivley in the game as starting from their own 12, the running of Aidan Pepper helped the Packers move the ball into Mayo territory to the 40-yard line. The Spartan defense, though, forced another fourth-and-long situation, and a Lang pass over the middle was incomplete, giving the ball back to Mayo at their 40. The Spartans then ran five plays to run out the clock for the win.
With the loss, Austin is now 0-7 on the season, and they will travel to Albert Lea for their regular season finale next Wednesday evening. You’ll hear the game on AM 1480 KAUS, with the Austin Packers pre-game show at 6:30, with kickoff from Albert Lea at 7:00 p.m.