I took in my first Austin High School football game Friday night. The Packers played a decent game but eventually fell to Big Nine opponent Mankato East 24-13. It was homecoming week for the Packers, who are still winless on the season, and the defeat was a crushing blow in the last couple plays of the game.
With 1:37 left in the game, East led 18-13. To their credit, the Packers marched down the field, picking up some big first downs to find the red zone. The Packers failed to convert in the endzone on fourth and 13, appearing to end their chances. But a roughing the passer penalty on East gave Austin a new set of downs.
Packer quarterback Sean Coffey tried multiple times to put a pass in the endzone in the hands of a receiver. On the final play of the game, Coffey was looking to connect with wide receiver Zach Wessels. The pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown as time expired.
Wessels was slow to get up, dejected for being oh-so-close to giving his team a homecoming win.
It wasn't a bad game for the Packers, considering they're now 0-4. This might have been their best shot at a victory all season.
After a scoreless first quarter, East ran in for a touchdown with four minutes left in the half. A failed extra-point attempt left the score at 6-0. Then the Cougars kicked a field goal with 24.2 ticks remaining in the first half, making the halftime score 9-0, still within reach for the Packers.
But it was the Packers who struck first in the second half. They had two receivers wide open for a touchdown reception, narrowing East's lead to 9-7. Later in the third quarter, the Packers defense came up big on third-and-goal as they stopped the Cougars in their tracks, making them settle for a field goal and a 12-7 lead.
Austin answered with a touchdown late in the game on a lucky play with a tipped pass that ended up in the hands of a Packer. They decided to go for two, but the failed conversion left the score at 13-12, the only lead of the game for Austin.
There was too much time left though because, despite Austin intercepting East, the Cougars were able to come up with a touchdown on another possession. It gave them that 18-13 edge leading up to the final drive of the game.
Even though the Packers lost, it was still a good game to mark my first one in Austin. I was itching to go to a high school football game, and I wasn't disappointed.