Rattling the cage: Packer football looks to build on 5-5 season
Published 7:01 am Monday, August 25, 2014
The Austin Packer football team took a big step last season and it’s hoping to go even further this fall.
After going 5-5 overall last year and winning a playoff game, the Packers spent a lot of time in the weight room over the winter and summer. Austin’s five wins last year was more than the team had won in the three previous years combined. The result of that success is a team that’s ready to go out and make some noise this year.
“Everybody’s a lot faster, we’re stronger and we’re a lot meaner,” Austin senior lineman Logan Hotek said. “Especially on the offensive line, there’s a huge improvement with strength and speed and we can really run the ball.”
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This is the third year the Packers have played under head coach Brett Vesel and the team’s strength and conditioning program continues to pay off. Vesel said this year’s team is the strongest team he’s had in Austin.
“We started really strong and ended really strong and guys who hadn’t normally lifted in the past were lifting,” Vesel said. “That’s a good thing.”
The Packers will see a couple of changes this season and there will be even more next year. The Big NIne is bigger this year as Red Wing and Northfield were added to the conference — which now has 12 teams.
Austin will play at Red Wing at 7 p.m. on Oct. 3, but it does not play Norhfield this year. The Packers will open their season against Rochester Mayo in Art Hass Stadium at 7 p.m. on Friday.
Next season, the Packers will no longer play in the Big Nine as the state of Minnesota moves to District football. The biggest change for Austin will be that Albert Lea is in a separate District and the teams may not meet again after this season.
The Packers and Tigers will square off Sept. 5 in Albert Lea at 7 p.m. Last year the Packers beat the Tigers for the first time in seven years when they scored a 37-25 victory.
The Packers are relying on speed to give them a boost on both sides of the ball this season and senior linebacker Kole Igou said the team is as fast as its ever been on that side of the ball.
“The ten fastest players on our team are on defense this year. Most of our guys are running 4.8 [40 yard dashes] and under,” Igou said. “We’re getting to that next level where people are getting to the camps and weight lifting. Everybody’s doing what they can because we want to go up from where we were last year.”
Igou said the community response to the team has been much better this Fall than in years past and he said it’s been easier to sell Packer cards, which are used as a fund raising tool for the team.
“Last year people didn’t want to buy them and they said we weren’t that good,” Igou said. “Everybody is more excited this year.”
The Packers graduated a big, talented senior class last year but Vesel feels there is enough talent to go around on this year’s team. He just has to make sure he puts players in the right place.
“We’re trying to figure out who can play where and see who’s best at what position,” he said. “We’ve got some pieces we’ve got to move around.”