The Austin Packers football team was on the road Friday night at John Drews Field in Rochester to take on the John Marshall Rockets, and although a 61-yard touchdown run by running back Joseph Walker gave the Packers a 9-6 lead, the Rockets quickly answered with three big plays of their own in the last six minutes of the first half that resulted in 22 points and, eventually, a 43-24 win.
Things started out well for Austin as the Packers forced JM into a three-and-out on the first drive of the game, and on a punt on fourth down, the snap from center sailed well over the head of Rocket punter Jacob Welp and into the end zone, where he recovered the ball for a safety and a 2-0 Austin lead.
After the ensuing free kick went out of bounds, the Packers had fantastic field position at the John Marshall 45-yard line. A 16-yard run by Walker moved the Packers close to the red zone, but the drive fizzled after ten plays and JM took over at their 25.
The Rockets ground game then went to work as a 35-yard run by Parker Navitsky helped JM work the ball to the Packer 3-yard line. On fourth down, quarterback Cole Peterson rolled right on the option on the eighth play of the drive and pitched the ball to running back Nate Swanson, who worked his way inside the pylon for a 3-yard touchdown run and a 6-2 JM lead after the extra point was blocked.
After each side forced the other into a three-and-out, Austin took over at their 23. On the fourth play of the drive, quarterback Teyghan Hovland handed off to Walker, who sprinted through a hole on the right side, angled to the sideline and outran everyone to the end zone for a 61-yard touchdown and a 9-6 Packer lead after Joe Ewing’s extra point.
Unfortunatley for Austin, the Rockets had an answer and seized the momentum with a nine-play, 64-yard touchdown drive capped off by a 26-yard touchdown pass from Peterson to wide receiver Peter Ladu to give JM the lead at 12-9 after the 2-point conversion try was no good.
Austin seemingly took momentum back for a moment as on the ensuing kickoff, Tommy Fritz played the squib kick on a hop and dashed 44 yards to the John Marshall 31-yard line. But, JM’s defense had the answer as on third down, a Packer fumble was recovered by John Marshall on their 32-yard line. Two plays later, Swanson took a hand off up the middle, broke a tackle at the line of scrimmage, sprinted up the middle of the field, cut to the sideline and dashed 68 yards for a touchdown and a 20-9 JM lead after Jack Ward took a direct snap and took the ball into the end zone for the 2-point conversion.
Austin started their next possession on their own 26, and a 22-yard pass from Hovland to Novell Jackson, plus a roughing-the-passer penalty on the same play quickly moved the ball into John Marshall territory. Again, JM’s defense had an answer, though as on the sixth play of the drive, Hovland was intercepted by defensive back Trevale Moe to stop the Packer drive and gave JM the ball at their 10-yard line with time ticking away late in the first half. Four plays later, the Rockets offense provided maybe the biggest play of the game as Peterson let fly with a bomb down the left sideline and found wide receiver Michael Nicometo for a devastating 62-yard touchdown pass and a 28-9 JM lead after the 2-point conversion with only :29 seconds left in the half.
Austin got the ball first to start the second half with good field position at their 42, and a 19 yard pass from Hovland to Manahan moved the ball into JM territory. The Rockets defense again had the answer, though, as they forced a turnover on downs after seven plays and took over at their 39 yard line. John Marshall then went on a clock-killing, 12 play drive the other way that ended on a 10-yard touchdown run for Swanson, his third of the game to put JM up 35-9 after the extra point by left-footed kicker Parker Navitsky.
The Packers countered with their best drive of the game as starting from their 38, a 34-yard pass from Hovland to Manahan moved the ball into John Marshall territory. On the 14th play of the drive, Austin was facing 4th and goal from the Rockets 10-yard line when Hovland went back to pass, scrambled to his right and found his way into the end zone and a 35-16 JM lead after Joe Ewing’s extra point.
The Rockets, though, had yet another answer as starting from their own 27, Peterson found Nicometo for a 22-yard touchdown pass on the sixth play of the drive and a 43-16 lead after a 2-point converison pass from Peterson to wide receiver Andrew Mai.
Austin sent in backup quarterback Jack Lang on the ensuing drive, and he found wide receiver Manny Guy with a 19-yard pass to move the Packers into JM territory. On the fifth play of the drive, Lang threw his first varsity touchdown pass when his quick hitch pass to Tommy Fritz resulted in a 4-yard score and a 43-24 final after Lang threw a quick screen to Guy for the 2-point conversion.
Joe Walker led Austin in rushing with 10 carries for 87 yards and a touchdown, Teyghan Hovland wound up with 10 carries for 44 yards and a touchdown, Aidan Pepper carried the ball four times for 11 yards and Mason O’Connor had five carries for 11 yards. Hovland passing was 6 for 15 for 88 yards and an interception, and Lang wound up 2 for 3 for 21 yards and a touchdown. Gage Manahan led Austin in receiving with 4 catches for 70 yards, Novell Jackson had one catch for 22 yards, Manny Guy had two catches for 19 yards and Tommy Fritz had one catch for four yards and a touchdown.
With the loss, Austin is now 1-4 on the season, and the Packers will close out the regular season at home next Wednesday night against Mankato East. You’ll hear the game right here on AM 1480 KAUS, with the Austin Packers pre-game show on the air at 6:30 p.m. and kickoff from Larry Gilbertson Track and Field at the Wescott Athletic Complex at 7:00 p.m.