The Austin Packers football team opened the 2023 season in front of a big crowd at Art Hass Stadium Friday night versus the Royals of Watertown-Mayer in the first-ever meeting between the two schools on the football gridiron. In a back-and-forth affair that saw the lead change hands three times in the fourth quarter alone, it was a blocked extra point versus a made extra point that proved to be the difference as the Royals held on to edge the Packers, 28-27.
After each team punted on their first drives of the game, Austin took over on their own 29-yard line, and a 26-yard pass from new starting quarterback Dakota Retterath to wide receiver Isaac Osgood seemed to jump-start the Packers offense, as Retterath added a 16-yard run of his own later in the drive that was capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass from Retterath to Osgood to give Austin a 7-0 lead after Peyton Ransom’s extra point.
The back-and-forth portion of the game then started as the Royals came back with a touchdown of their own on a 10-play, 58-yard drive capped off by a 12-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Nathan Behrens to wide receiver/running back Michael Foley to tie the game at 7 after Jaren Vogt’s extra point. Right back came Austin, though, as the Packers answered with an 8-play, 61-yard drive that saw sophomore running back Noah Dunlap reel off a 22-yard run in his first varsity start, and Retterath finding wide receiver Tyler Carter on a 29-yard pass play. On the eighth play, Retterath found Ransom in the deep right corner of the end zone from 19 yards out, and Ransom’s extra point gave the Packers the lead back at 14-7. The Royals answered right back on the ensuing drive, however, as running back Landon Meyer capped off a nine-play, 62-yard drive by driving into the end zone from one yard out to tie the game at 14-14 at the end of the first half.
After a scoreless third quarter that saw the defenses for both teams rise to the fore, it was Watertown-Mayer’s defense that turned momentum in their favor as the Royals stopped Austin on three plays from the Packer 20, and a short punt of 20 yards into a stiff south wind on 4th and 6 gave the Royals the ball for the first time in Austin territory at the Packers 44. Eleven plays later, Michael Foley drove into the end zone from four yards out for his second touchdown of the game, and the extra point gave Watertown-Mayer their first lead of the game at 21-14.
Austin came firing right back on the ensuing drive, as starting from their own 40, a 32-yard pass from Retterath to Ransom quickly moved the ball into Royals territory, and on the fourth play of the drive, Retterath found Ransom open in the right flat, and he was able to break a tackle and stride into the end zone for a 14-yard touchdown and a 21-21 tie after Ransom’s extra point. Momentum stayed with Packers, as on the ensuing kickoff, wide receiver Gannon Lee fumbled on the return, and the ball was recovered by Cale Tupy at the Royals 24. Four plays later, Retterath threw his fouth touchdown pass of the game, as he found Isaac Osgood wide open in the right side of the end zone to make the score 27-21. In a play that would prove crucial later on, the Royals were able to burst through the line and block Ransom’s extra point to keep the score at 27-21.
Watertown-Mayer’s next drive started at their own 25-yard line, and the Royals went on a 10-play, 75-yard touchdown drive, with nine of the plays being runs, including a 4th and 1 conversion from their own 45 early in the drive. Foley took a handoff on the tenth play of the drive and made his way into the end zone from 10 yards out, and Vogt’s extra-point attempt into the wind was just inside the left upright to put the Royals back in front, 28-27.
With just over two minutes and three timeouts left, the Packers quickly moved into Watertown-Mayer territory looking for the go-ahead score as starting from their 37-yard line, Retterath fired a bullet over the middle that found Ransom in stride just across midfield, and he was able to make his way to the Royals 23-yard line for a gain of 43 yards. Retterath was later able to scramble his way down to the 11-yard line, and a run by Retterath on the read option from the 11 seemed to give Austin the lead back at 33-28, but a holding penalty negated the touchdown and moved the Packers back to the Watertown-Mayer 21-yard line. Austin was flagged for holding again later in the drive, and on the tenth play, a 36-yard field goal attempt on fourth and long with :24 seconds left came up short, and the Royals then took a knee to run out the clock for the win.
Austin tallied 13 first downs in the game, while Watertown-Mayer picked up 18, and the Packers were whistled for 10 penalties for 80 yards, while the Royals were flagged four times for 41 yards. Austin was +1 in the giveaway/takeaway ratio, and neither side registered a sack in the game.
Austin returns to action next Friday night at St. Croix Prepatory Academy in Stillwater versus Academy Force, and you’ll hear the game on AM 1480 KAUS, with the pre-game show coming your way at 6:30 p.m., and kickoff at 7:00 p.m.