Packers drop opener to Red Wing

Published 2:09 am Saturday, September 1, 2012

Austin wide receiver Gabe Kasak stiff-arms Red Wing's Andrew Petterson during the Packers' 35-22 loss in Red Wing Friday night. -- Rocky Hulne/

It started well enough, but the Packers couldn’t hold off the Wingers as they saw the program’s losing streak extend to 20 straight losses in a 35-22 season opening loss at Red Wing Friday.

Red Wing senior Alan Page did most of the offensive damage for the Wingers (1-0 overall) as he racked up 194 total yards of offense and scored two touchdowns.

Austin (0-1 overall) was well aware of Page’s presence, but the speedster was allowed to get outside too often.

Austin's Bret Lukes is surrounded by Red Wing players as he returns an kick-off in Red Wing Friday. The Packers lost 35-22 to the Wingers. -- Rocky Hulne/

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“He wasn’t faster than we thought. We game planned for him for a month and we just didn’t execute,” Austin senior linebacker Pat Wagner said. “We let him get to the outside. The last thing we thought was gonna happen is that they would get some running plays on us and that’s what happened on those last two drives.”

Austin pulled to within 21-14 at the end of the first half when Sean Coffey hit Bret Lukes on a slant route for a 7-yard score with no time on the clock. But Austin’s offense sputtered in the second half as it ran just five offensive plays in the third quarter.

The Wingers boosted their lead to 28-14 on the first play of the fourth quarter when Andrew Kalb hauled in a nine-yard TD-grab that was first deflected by Austin cornerback Ajuda Nywesh.

The Wingers went 80 yards in 13 plays in their next drive and Isaac Toivonen put the game away with a five-yard TD run with 1:54 left.

Austin head coach Brett Vesel had considered his team’s run defense to be its biggest strength, but the Packers yielded 152 rushing yards Friday.

“They played like crap,” Vesel said. “All year in scrimmages and summer stuff they played exceptionally well and tonight they didn’t and that hurt us. We’re gonna win on the offensive and defensive lines and they just didn’t play well.”

Austin’s offense struck first as Marcus Stoulil pulled in a 9-yard touchdown pass from Coffey on an out route to make 6-0 with 4:05 left in first quarter. Austin had a chance to build on that lead on its next possession, but Red Wing linebacker Thate Peterson picked off a third down pass in the flat from Coffey and took it back 60 yards for a score.

Austin's Zach Nelson brings down Red Wing's Isaac Toivonen in Red Wing Friday. -- Rocky Hulne/

Austin didn’t get a first down on its next two possessions as the Wingers converted TD drives of 43 and 68 yards to take a 21-6 lead.

“There were minor mistakes we need to fix and the running game needs to be a huge part of our offense,” said Stoulil, who had 103 receiving yards. “We had some mental breakdowns here and there. We had some first game jitters with the new offense, but after this I think we’ll be fine.”

Wagner said the Packers were hoping to snap their losing streak on Friday, but the loss didn’t seem quite as paralyzing as some of the shortcomings did last season.

“Last year if this loss would’ve happened we would’ve been done for the next couple of games,” Wagner said. “ This year, we want to play and we wish the game was tomorrow.”

Austin will host Mankato West, which beat New Prague 35-0 Friday, in its home opener Sept. 7.

“Right now the attitude’s not very high because this is a game we thought we should’ve won,” Stoulil said. “But we’re gonna come back and get ready for West and we’re gonna bring a storm.”


Rushing: Nate Connor, 8-for-43; Tommy Olmsted, 8-for-21; Cory Hepler, 4-for-9; Sean Coffey, 7-for-7

Passing: Coffey, 17-for-32, 186, 2 TD, 1 INT; Ryan Synoground, 3-for-4, 32, TD

Receiving: Marcus Stoulil, 5-for-103, TD; Gabe Kasak, 7-for-57, TD; Nik Gasner, 4-for-36; Bret Lukes, 2-for-11, TD; Hepler, 1-for-6; Jacob Kempen, 1-for-5

Penalties: 4-for-30; fumble recoveries: Trevor Feuerhak (1); Pat Wagner (1)


Rushing: Andre Page, 8-for-53, TD; Michael Friedrich, 9-for-44; Isaac Toivonen, 5-for-33, TD; Gage Lastine, 8-for-23; Ricky Turcotte, 5-for-(-1)

Passing: Turcotte, 10-for-18, 147, 2 TD; Toivonen, 1-for-1, 27

Receiving: Page, 8-for-141, TD; Toivonen, 2-for-24; Andrew Kalb, 1-for-9, TD

Penalties: 5-for-38


Austin 6 8 0 8 — 22

RW 0 21 0 14 — 35

First quarter

(A) Stoulil 9 pass from Coffey (Stoulil kick failed) (8 plays, 54 yards) 4:55

Austin's Tommy Olmsted, left, and Gabe Gerstner, team up to bring down Red Wing's Michael Friedrich in Red Wing Friday. -- Rocky Hulne/

Second quarter

(RW) Thate Peterson 60 interception return (Tubbs kick) (1 play, 60 yards) 10:28

(RW) Page 18 pass from Turcotte (Tubbs kick) (3 plays, 43 yards) 8:05

(RW) Page 8 run (Tubbs kick) (7 plays, 68 yards) 3:05

(A) Lukes 7 pass from Coffey (Stoulil from Coffey) (12 plays, 68 yards) :00

Third quarter

No scoring

Fourth quarter

(RW) Kalb 9 pass from Turcotte (Tubbs kick) (11 plays, 68 yards) 11:56

(RW) Toivonen 5 run (Tubbs kick) (8 plays, 52 yards) 1:54

(A) Kasak 8 pass from Synoground (Kasak from Synoground) :29


The Packers were just a handful of plays into their opener against Red Wing and their starting running back Cory Hepler went down with a sprained knee ligament.

It was a worst case scenario for a team that was short on running backs, but the situation may have also given Austin a good look at its future in the backfield.

After Tommy Olmsted, a starting cornerback who had to fill in at running back, was held to 21 yards on eight carries, Austin head coach Brett Vesel finally gave freshman running back Nate Connor a chance.

“Tommy’s not a running back. Elijah Dahmen is truly our backup and he had a bum ankle,” Vesel said. “It thought about Nate Conner early and everybody kind of looked at me crazy. We had to make a decision.”

Conner, who is listed at 5-feet, 7-inches tall and 122 pounds, came into the game in the fourth quarter and showed no fear. He showed a good burst and finished with 43 yards to lead Austin on eight carries.

“Nate is just phenomenal, he’s tough,” Vesel said. “I didn’t know if he’d be ready for this level and I thought he showed something special there.”

Austin wide receiver Marcus Stoulil didn’t even notice Conner when he first came in the huddle, but he noticed the back’s presence on the field.

“I didn’t even know he came in and all of the sudden he stood up from the pile,” Stoulil said. “It hurt to lose Corey and I know he’ll be back, but Nate ran hard nosed and we need someone who’s going to run head down the whole time.”

Hepler, a 5-8, 184-pound junior who had nine yards on four carries, shouldn’t miss much time with his injury, but Conner may just end up turning into a change of pace back for the Packers this fall.