Column: Are you ready for some football?

Published 11:22 pm Monday, August 11, 2008

What better place to be in the middle of the night than at Art Hass Stadium.

That’s where the Austin football team and about 75 of their followers were Sunday night as they opened their practice schedule with Midnight Madness.

It was a night for the defense as the Packer defenders controlled the 7-on-7 scrimmage, picking off two passes and forcing several incompletions.

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“A lot of things went well. The defense looked good,” Austin head football coach Tim Hermann said. “They made some nice plays. That’s the way it should be early on.”

The competition between the defense and offense is only the beginning for the Packers — who won just two games last season. Hermann said he plans on doing several competitions throughout the practice schedule, whether it be in pass rushing, team rushing, or team passing.

“We decided we have to have a little competition in practice,” Hermann said. “I think competition will bring out enthusiasm and the best out of everybody.”

That should inspire a Packer team which brings back most of it’s squad from last season. And those players are striving to erase the memory of back-to-back losses to Albert Lea at the end of last season.

“We have to bring the pride back to this program,” Hermann said. “We’ve had three tough years and we need to have a better year than we’ve had. We’ve got a lot of returners and probably have more talent than we’ve had in awhile. We want to compete with everybody.”

Hermann emphasized that his team’s fate will be decided at the line of scrimmage. And the Packers won’t know too much about their lines until contact drills start in a day or two.

“You’ve gotta be able to stop the run and be able to run,” he said. “That comes down to the offensive and defensive lines. Once we put on pads, the tell tale truths will come forward.”

On Sunday, the line was limited to their regular drills as the backs and receivers stole the show. While the route running was very precise, there were a few drops and a couple of missed throws. But those things are expected on the first practice of the year — especially at midnight on a Sunday.

Some of the mistakes came from younger players, who haven’t had a lot of time with the varsity. Hermann said about 20 of the Packers are with the varsity team for the first time.

“About forty of them know what’s going on and for twenty of them it’s the first time they’ve been on a football field at that pace,” he said. “Half of our team has gone through four days of training at NDSU and they’ve had about seven or eight scrimmages. So they’ve got a good idea of what to do.”

Of all the drills that Austin ran Sunday — the practice lasted just over an hour — the one that stood out the most was when the quarterbacks were working on the option. They ran it so efficiently I almost thought it was a new wrinkle from the team I saw last year.

After my photographer convinced me they ran the option last season, I made up my mind they were just executing it better and I hope to see it a lot this year.

The linebacking core was also exceptionally fired up for the Pack as players were chasing after every dead ball, including one time were a couple players left the field to pursue a ball in the tunnel by the locker rooms.

Let’s hope that work ethic stays with Pack all season.