Hitting their stridePublished 7:05pm Saturday, October 19, 2013
It wasn’t too long ago when the Packer football team was just hoping to win a game. Now the Packers are hoping to win a playoff game when they play at No. 4 seeded Faribault (5-3) at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Few have a better perspective on how far the Austin football program has come in the last four years than this year’s seniors. Four years ago, their freshmen team had the best record in the Big Nine as Austin’s varsity was in the first of two straight winless seasons.
Senior defensive back Ethan Horstmann recalls going to the varsity games and watching the Packers struggle.
“When I was a freshman, I remember coming to games and watching losses all of the time,” Horstmann said. “It was a heart breaker, because I love football. Our seniors our great guys and we’ve played our hearts out.”
The Packers are entering the playoffs on a three-game winning streak and the Falcons have lost two of their last three. Faribault won the season opener over Austin 35-21, but Austin wide receivers Zach Wessels and Nik Gasner were just getting used to playing football again at that time, and the Packers have improved as a team throughout this season.
Austin senior linebacker Elijah Dahmen is glad to be part of the turnaround of a program in the last two seasons under head coach Brett Vesel, and he hopes things get even better in the future.
“[Vesel] turned it around,” Dahmen said. “We hadn’t won games here in years and now we’re .500. It’s a start, and we’re going to get better over the years.”
Vesel was quick to give credit to his players and he hopes the underclassmen on the team follow the lead of this year’s seniors, who put plenty of time in the weight room to make improvements.
“These guys have worked hard and they deserve it,” Vesel said. “It’s not just because we call great plays. It’s not like we just had a bunch of good players come in. The team put in a lot time for nine months and it showed.”
Aug. 30 Faribault 35, Austin 21
Sept. 6 Mankato West 57, Austin 14
Sept. 13 Rochester John Marshall 42, Austin 22
Sept. 20 Austin 27, Winona 21
Sept. 27 Owatonna 49, Austin 26
Oct. 4 Austin 26, Rochester Mayo 23 (OT)
Oct. 11 Austin 37, Albert Lea 25
Oct. 16 Austin 39, Mankato East 7
Section 1AAAAA Austin vs. Faribault, 7 p.m., Tuesday in Faribault