Football: Wessels gives Packers a boost on both sides of the ballPublished 1:16am Saturday, September 21, 2013
WINONA — Austin senior Zach Wessels may have missed his junior season of football to focus on basketball, but he made up for some lost time when he helped the Packers beat Winona 27-21 in Winona Friday night.
Wessels hauled in 11 catches for 116 yards and a score, including a stunning catch that he made while laying on the ground on fourth and seven, that set up his own 16-yard TD grab in the third quarter.
“I just want to win,” Wessels said. “I fell down on that play, but I still caught it. I just want to do what I can to help my team win.
Wessels, who had a handful of key first down catches on third down for the Packers, also made an impact on defense as he played a little safety for the first time since he was a freshman in high school. Wessels worked at safety this week in practice and he had immediate impact as he helped stop a Winona drive at the end of the first half when he put on a big hit and forced a fumble on a Winona receiver that Austin recovered on its own nine-yard line with less than two minutes left in the half.
“It’s been three years since I hit somebody,” Wessels said. “I told the coaches I wanted to play defense and I made a play.”
Wessels and senior Bret Lukes, who hadn’t played much defense this season before Friday, each patrolled a secondary that helped hold the Winhawks to just 47 yards passing on 16 attempts.
“They’re a safety net,” Austin defensive end Gabe Gerstner said. “They protect that deep pass and it really made me feel comfortable with them back there.”
Austin head coach Brett Vesel said he liked what Lukes and Wessels did when they were on the defensive side of the ball.
“That’s a long distance situation. We played with it this week and we liked it in practice and we knew (Winona) is a good throwing team. Our defense put good pressure on them and didn’t leave us hanging out there.”