Packers have big matchup for homecoming football game

Published 9:36 pm Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Packers football team has shown it can win this year. Now it just has to show that it can win with a little added pressure.

Austin (3-2 overall, 2-2 Big Nine) has a big matchup against Faribault (3-2 overall, 3-1 Big Nine) for their homecoming game this Friday at 7 p.m. in Art Hass Stadium.

The Packers and Falcons are tied for second in the Section 1AAAA seedings.

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“Faribault right now is the biggest game that we have,” Austin center Joe Diggins said. “We need to beat them and get over that hump to move up in the section standings. We’ll do anything to get this win.”

The Packers have already surpassed last year’s win total of two and they’re hoping to do something that they couldn’t do last season – close out the season with some wins.

“We’ve talked about (our struggles to close out last year),” Austin quarterback T.J. Fritz said. “It’s a focus thing and we have to stay focused during the week at practice and during meetings. Last year, guys lost focus and we fell at the end of the year. We can’t do that again.”

On Friday, the Packers will take on a Falcons team coming off a 40-0 win over Rochester John Marshall. Faribault will be running early and often out of their wing-T formation, which makes the Austin run defense a key factor.

The Packers have allowed 20 points or more in four of five games this season, but last week’s performance against Mankato West gave the team some confidence. While they lost 27-0, that was more because the Packer offense couldn’t move the ball.

The defensive front made life difficult for the Scarlets in getting four sacks and six tackles for a loss against the top ranked team in the Class ‘AAAA.’

“It shows us that we have what it takes to play anyone,” said Austin defensive tackle Mitch Morem, who had two sacks last week. “We stopped a lot of their middle runners, and that’s a big confidence booster for our front four and our linebackers. Our front four is really fast off the ball and we are some of the strongest guys on the team. We always try to hit the gaps and break stuff up.”

Besides Faribault, the Packers have two more games against Section 1AAAA opponents this season. They travel to Winona Oct. 15 and host Albert Lea Oct. 21.

“We’re right where we knew we could be at the beginning of the year, and now we’ve got to close out with three important games,” Fritz said. “We’ve got to come out firing and play team ball.”

According to Diggins, the biggest change from last year to this year is leadership. The Packers have 19 seniors on their roster, and most of them are big contributors.

“When you have so many seniors playing varsity it helps a lot,” he said. “When somebody’s feeling down, somebody else is going to pick them up and then you’re going to get picked up and we’re going to keep going.”

Morem said he hopes the defense continues to pick up their game over the stretch run.

“We’d like to finish up the season with a boom and really step up on defense,” he said.