Austin hosts Albert Lea for homecoming

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 10, 2002

The whole world is not riding on Friday's football game between Austin and Albert Lea, but the Big Nine Conference battle between winless teams may seem like it for the Packers.

Austin hosts the Tigers for homecoming Friday night at 7 p.m. at Wescott Field, hoping to break the six-game losing streak that has consumed most of the regular season. The Packers, and Albert Lea too, are hungry for that elusive first win, and only one of these teams will get it.

"The kids know exactly what's at stake," said AHS coach Steve Knox. "We're all excited for the opportunity this game presents us.

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"This game is important to the players, their classmates, the community, the school system -- it carries a lot of importance."

Austin's homecoming contest happens to be against the school's long-time rival from the west, and both teams are in need of a victory the way fish need water.

"It's hard to listen and watch your kids play so hard and at the end of the game come up short," Coach Knox said. "We see kids that are willing to re-commit themselves to work as hard as they can regardless of the adversity they've faced."

The Packers were picked off by Century in overtime in the Panthers' homecoming game last week, 21-20, and Winona rallied from a deficit to take a 14-7 victory from Austin the week previous. Both Winona and Century were winless entering their respective contests with the Packers, and Albert Lea comes to town the same way.

"We're hoping this will be the one," Knox said. "Everybody you play in the Big Nine is not an easy week, I don't care who it is or what their record is.

"To the skeptics, that's why we play the game."

Albert Lea stacks up last in scoring, points allowed and total offense and total defense. The Packers are ninth in scoring at 10.5 points per game, recording a season-high 20 in last week's loss in Rochester. Austin has not scored any points in the third quarter this season, but Coach Knox can not concern himself with that particular statistic.

"The third quarter has not been advantageous for us as far as scoring, but right now, quite frankly, we're more worried about scoring at any time rather than in one particular period," Knox said.

Austin's offense has shown signs of improvement over the past few weeks, racking up 194 yards last week amidst the muddy midfield at Century. Starting quarterback Tucker Schieck completed 4-of-6 passes for a season-high 67 percent completion ratio despite the slippery conditions, while Matt Ball had a banner day with four receptions for 48 yards and Austin's second passing touchdown of the season.

"We haven't put a whole lot of focus on Albert Lea," Coach Knox said. "Things are starting to come together on the offensive side of the ball. They're working to do things so well, you have to give them credit.

"We're so close but not quite yet there. We're right on the verge. Once we get over the top and get that victory, that's what we need," Knox continued. "As we get closer to the end of the season, a victory is one thing we need to get us more prepared for the playoffs.

"We want this game. We'll be on our home field and possibly for the last time of the season. We can make a decision of how it's going to go."

Call Ross Thede at 434-2234 or e-mail him at