The Austin Packers football team, the No. 5 seed in the Section 1AAAA tournament traveled to Bruce Smith Field in Faribault Tuesday night to take on the Falcons in the tournament quarterfinals, and in a game played in the rain and mud, the Packers saw a 14-6 4th quarter lead slip away as the Falcons rallied with 16 unanswered points to advance by a score of 22-14.
Austin won the opening toss and elected to receive, but the wet and muddy conditions had an immediate impact as the Packers fumbled on the first play from scrimmage, and the Falcons recovered at the Packer 13-yard line. Austin’s defense, though, was equal to the task, as the Falcons wound up losing three yards in four plays, which gave the ball back to the Packers at their own 16. Faribault’s defense forced a three-and-out, and after taking over possession at their own 43 after a 47-yard punt by Dakota Retterath, a fumble on the first play from scrimmage was recovered by Austin at the Falcons 41-yard line. Nine plays later, Retterath made his way through the mud into the end zone from two yards out to give the Packers a 6-0 lead after the 2-point conversion run was stopped.
Faribault was forced into a three-and-out on the ensuing possession, and Austin took over on their own 27 after a punt. A 23-yard pass from Retterath to wide receiver Tyler Carter moved the ball into Falcons territory, but the drive stalled after 10 plays, and Faribault took over possession at their own 37. The Packers were able to force yet another three-and-out, and they took over at their own 33 after another Faribault punt. Junior running back Garlo Gee started the drive on a positive note with a 17-yard run to midfield, but the Packers lost any momentum they had on the drive when the officials called not only a holding penalty, but also a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty which pushed the Packers back 26 yards to their own 24. The drive saw another holding penalty called on Austin, in addition to another unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, along with two Faribault sacks, which pushed the Packers back inside their own 10-yard line. After a Retterath punt gave the Falcons the ball at the Austin 48-yard line late in the second quarter, Faribault’s power-T running attack started to show signs of life as the Falcons drove down the field inside the Packer 10-yard line. Austin’s defense came up big again at the end of the half, however, as the Faribault drive stalled at the Packer 4-yard line to leave the score at 6-0 Austin at the end of the half.
Faribault received the second half kickoff and wasted little time in tying the game as on the first play from scrimmage, running back Jayden Hart burst out of a trap block on a hand-off up the middle and outran everyone to the end zone for a 62-yard touchdown and a 6-6 tie after the 2-point attempt was stopped. The Austin offense had an answer on the next drive, as starting from their own 35, a 34-yard run by Gee put the Packers into Faribault territory. Austin’s ground game was able to move the ball to the Falcon 20, and on the sixth play of the drive, Gee took a hand-off, sprinted through the mud to the outisde, and then outran everyone to the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown and a 14-6 Austin lead after sophomore backup quarterback Jamal Faux, who had came into the game during the touchdown drive for the injured Retterath ran into the end zone for the 2-point conversion.
Momentum stayed with the Packers on the ensuing kickoff when Peyton Ransom executed a perfect onsides kick that he recovered at the Faribault 48-yard line. The Falcons defense was then able to blunt the Austin momentum when they forced a turnover on downs at their own 25, but the Packers quickly regained the upper hand when they recovered a Faribault fumble on the first play from scrimmage at the Falcons 27. A 16-yard run from Faux moved the ball to 1st and goal at the Faribault 9-yard line, but on 4th and goal from the 2-yard line, Faux never really got the handle on a low shotgun snap, and he was stopped for no gain to give the ball back to the Falcons.
Unfortuantely for Austin, as was the case in a Week 5 matchup in Faribault, the Falcons power-T running attack turned the game in their favor in the second half, as with the game now in the 4th quarter, the Falcons embarked on a 16-play, 98-yard touchdown drive after the turnover on downs as running back J.T. Hausen ran 13 yards for a touchdown on 4th and 2, and his 2-point conversion run for good measure tied the game at 14.
Things then went from bad to worse for the Packers, as starting from their own 37 after the ensuing kickoff, Faux was not able to get a handle on a shotgun snap that rolled back toward him through the mud, and the Falcons recovered at the Packer 34. Now with all of the momentum, the Falcons used four running plays to take the lead on a 7-yard touchdown dash from running back Joey Steinberg that gave Faribault a 22-14 lead after another 2-point conversion run from Hausen.
With time winding down, the Packers started their next drive from their own 31, and the Austin offense was determined to drive downfield to try to tie the game as a 37-yard pass from Faux to wide receiver Isaac Osgood moved the ball into Faribault territory. The Packers were able to work the ball down to the Falcons 22-yard line, but on 4th and 6, Faux connected with Ransom on a pass over the middle, but the officials ruled that even though Ransom reached the ball ahead in an attempt to gain more yardage, he was determined to be short of the line to gain, and the Falcons downed the ball on the next two plays to run out the clock to seal the win.
With the loss, the Packers finish their sesaon at 1-8, while Faribault will take a 4-5 record into Kasson Saturday night for a semifinal matchup with the top-seeded Komets, with kickoff at 7 p.m. The other Section 1AAAA semifinal Saturday night will pit No. 2 Byron against No. 3 seed Winona, with the winners Saturday night playing for the Section 1AAAA title at Rochester Mayo High School at 7 p.m. on Friday, November 3rd.