Packers drop football opener to Falcons

Published 1:12 am Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Austin defense teams up to bring down Faribault's Joe Miller in the first half of the Packers' 35-21 loss to the Falcons in Faribault Friday. -- Rocky Hulne/

The Austin defense teams up to bring down Faribault’s Joe Miller in the first half of the Packers’ 35-21 loss to the Falcons in Faribault Friday. — Rocky Hulne/

FARIBAULT — The Packers played their best football in the fourth quarter, but it wasn’t enough as they ended up a couple of big plays short in a 35-21 loss to Faribault in their season opener on the road Friday.

Austin’s Zach Wessels pulled in a one-handed 12-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Synoground with 11:54 left in the game to make it 28-14 and Bret Lukes dodged around several defenders on a 24-yard TD catch to pull the Packers within 28-21 with 6:31 left, but the Austin defense couldn’t make one last stop.

Instead, the Falcons went on a run-heavy 12 play, 74-yard drive that was capped by a five-yard scoring run by Joe Hoisington to make it 35-21 with 1:54 left in the game.

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“A lot of guys really, really wanted it (on that drive) and I think it kind of hurt us,” Austin linebacker Kole Igou said. “Everybody was trying so hard that I think we lost focus. It was a really hard drive.”

The Falcons had their way on the ground all night long as they amassed 210 yards on the ground. They had just one run for more than 15 yards, but they were only held to two yards or less eight times on 30 carries.

“Defensively, we’re going to find out who can play and who can’t play by watching the film,” Austin head coach Brett Vesel said. “We’re definitely not tough at the point of attack right now. We need to fix that.”

Austin (0-1 overall, 0-1 Big Nine) had a tough first half as it ran for 30 yards on 13 carries and the Falcons surged to a 21-7 lead at the break.

Austin had a chance to pull within a score at the half, but Synoground was sacked at the Faribault 22 yard-line on fourth down with 1:19 left in the half.

The Packer passing attack finally took off in the fourth quarter as Synoground led the Packers on drives of 49 and 78 yards.

Lukes had a career night with 11 catches for 144 yards and two scores and Wessels added nine catches for 93 yards and a score.

“We didn’t get much in the first half,” Lukes said. “In the second half we started to click and we had a lot of opportunities, but we didn’t execute as well as we wanted to. We did a lot better in the summer and we expect to get to that point. With this offense, it’s fun for me. I found openings and Ryan got me the ball tonight.”

Austin sophomore Nate Conner got the running game going in the second half as he ran for 60 of his 72 yards in the second frame.

In the end, it was Faribault’s rushing attack that got the best of the Packers.

“We just made our reads wrong,” Igou said. “These guys have been running that offense for a very long and they know how to trick you with it, even though they only have so many different plays. They’ll go middle, middle, middle and then they’ll go around.”

Austin will host Mankato West (1-0 overall, 1-0 Big Nine), which beat Albert Lea 64-14 Friday, in its home opener Friday at 7 p.m.

Austin's Cory Hepler breaks a tackle attempt by Faribault's Danny Ehlers in Faribault Friday. The Packers lost 35-21. -- Rocky Hulne/

Austin’s Cory Hepler breaks a tackle attempt by Faribault’s Danny Ehlers in Faribault Friday. The Packers lost 35-21. — Rocky Hulne/


Passing: Ryan Synoground, 25-for-42, 266, 3 TD, 2 INT; Zach Wessels, 1-for-1, 21; Receiving: Bret Lukes, 11-for-144, 2 TD; Wessels, 9-for-93, TD; Nate Conner, 2-for-23; Jacob Kempen, 2-for-12; Nik Gasner, 2-for-9; Rushing: Conner, 11-for-72; Synoground, 11-for-35; Cory Hepler, 5-for-27; Interceptions: Elijah Dahmen (1); Fumble recoveries: Gabe Gerstner (1); Penalties: 4-for-34


Passing: 113; Rushing: 210; Penalties: 7-for-55


Austin 7 0 0 14 — 21

Faribault 7 14 7 7 — 35

First quarter

(F) Andy Ness 64 run (Swanson kick) (8 plays, 94 yards) 5:03

(A) Bret Lukes 21 pass from Ryan Synoground (Wessels kick) (12 plays, 80 yards) 1:58

Second quarter

(F) Nash Bauer 23 catch from Danny Ehlers (Swanson kick) (9 plays, 67 yards) 10:27

(F) Joe Miller 4 run (Swanson kick) (8 plays, 58 yards) 4:18

Third quarter

(F) Mitch Nagel 16 run (Swanson kick) (10 plays, 59 yards) 5:41

Fourth quarter

(A) Wessels 12 catch from Synoground (Wessels kick) (8 plays, 49 yards) 14:28

(A) Lukes 24 catch from Synoground (Wessels kick) (8 plays, 78 yards) 6:31

(F) Joe Hoisington 5 run (Swanson kick) 12 plays, 74 yards) 1:54