On a senior night at Art Hass Stadium in Austin that saw clouds, high winds, cold temperatures and snow flurries, the Packers gained momentum with a big first play of the game for the second week in a row, but unfortuantely like last week at Byron, the momentum quickly shifted to the visiting Northfield Raiders who went on to win their first game of the season 24-7.
Austin received the opening kickoff and on the first play from scrimmage from the 22, halfback Teren Olvera broke loose off left end and sprinted 67 yards to the Northfield 11-yard line. The Raider defense stiffened, however, and on 4th and 6 from the 7, the Packers brought out freshman kicker Joe Ewing to attempt a 24-yard field goal. The kick into the swirling wind sailed under the crossbar and Northfield took over at their own 20.
Each team punted on their next two possessions, with Austin getting the ball at their own 21 after the second Raider punt. Northfield’s defense again stepped to the fore and forced a punt after five plays. A shanked punt went only 1 yard for the Packers and the Raiders took over at Austin’s 44-yard line. On the seventh play of the drive, Raider quarterback Gavin Rataj rolled to his right on the option, beautifully faked a pitch, cut upfield and dove over the goal line to cap off a 13-yard touchdown run to put Northfield ahead 6-0 after the extra point was hooked just wide to the left by kicker Charlie Pratt.
Austin was forced into a three-and-out on their next possession, and Northfield took over at their 41. The Packer defense flexed its muscles and forced a three-and-out of their own to force a punt by Daniel Monaghan. In one of the strangest plays of the season, Monaghan tried to scoop a low snap off the turf, bobbled the ball, picked it up again and then sprinted out to his left with the Packer rush closing in on him. The right-footed punter kicked the ball on the move with his left foot, but the punt was blocked and Rigo Prado scooped the ball up at the Raider 26 and dashed down the sideline into the end zone for a 7-6 Packer lead after Ewing’s extra point.
With time waning in the first half, the Raiders started the ensuing drive at their own 30. The Packers were called for a personal foul facemask penalty on Rataj as he kept the ball on the read option to help move the ball to the Packer 43. Rataj then went up top to Monaghan, one of the Raiders’ top wide receivers who got behind the Packer defense and hauled in a crushing touchdown pass with 31 seconds left to give Northfield a 14-7 lead after Rataj found running back Simon Dickerson in the end zone on the 2-point conversion.
The second half opened with a 12-play drive by the Raiders as they worked the ball into the red zone, but the Packers notched two of their three sacks in the game to throw Northfield back and stop the drive at the 25. The Raider defense again forced a three-and-out by the Packers on the ensuing drive and a punt gave the ball back to Northfield at their 38. The Raiders moved the ball into Packer territory, but were facing 4th and 13 from Austin’s 44-yard line. In maybe the biggest play of the night, Monaghan took the snap to punt, but instead kept the ball on a fake and rambled all the way to the Packer 5-yard line for a first down. On the second play of the 4th quarter, Rataj found tight end Nick Touchette on a 5-yard touchdown pass to make the score 22-7 after Rataj, the holder for extra points took the snap from center, quickly got up off the turf, booted to his right and found wide receiver Porter Adams for a 2-point conversion pass.
Things went from bad to worse for the Packers on the ensuing kickoff when the kick was misplayed by the sideline and went out of bounds at the 2-yard line. On the second play of the ensuing drive, quarterback Teyghan Hovland was sacked in the end zone for a safety and a 24-7 Northfield lead.
The Northfield defense allowed only three first downs to Austin for the entire game, with all of them in the first half. The Packers were led in rushing by Olvera, who carried the ball 13 times for 93 yards. Hovland passing was 2 for 5 for 23 yards while Johnson was 1 for 6 for 6 yards. Colin Dahlback led Austin in receiving with two catches for 23 yards, while Olvera added one catch on a swing pass for 12 yards.
The Packers are now 2-5 on the season, and they will wrap up the regular season at home next Wednesday night against the Albert Lea Tigers, with kickoff at 7:00 p.m. The Tigers will come into the game with a record of 1-6, falling to New Prague Friday night on the road 32-6.