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AUSTIN EDITION Austin opens sections

Packers can recall last meeting with Red Wing

By Guy N. Limbeck

glimbeck@postbulletin.com

Austin remembers the last time it faced Red Wing in football.

Two years ago the Wingers toppled the Packers 15-6 in the Class AAAA, Section One football title game. It denied the Packers their first section title.

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"We have some players who remember that game and some coaches who remember that game," Austin coach Steve Knox said. "So we want to get there and play well."

The Packers (1-7) will travel to Red Wing (4-4) for the first round of the section playoffs on Tuesday.

"We've had a goal all year to do well in the playoffs," Knox said. "We're going to focus on us moving on."

Despite just one regular-season win, he Packers have been encouraged by the play of their defense.

"We feel very good," Knox said. "We think our defense has stepped it up the last half of the season."

The Wingers have relied on Ryan Polonsky's passing to key their offense this season. His favorite target has been Marcus Schmit, the son of head coach Paul Schmit.

The Packers have had six interceptions the past two games and have done a solid job of defending teams that use a spread offense like Mankato West, Albert Lea and Rochester Century.

"We've done a nice job of getting interceptions and forcing and recovering fumbles the last few games," Knox said.

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The Wingers showed they could win with a running attack a week ago. Playing in snowy conditions, the Wingers snapped a four-game losing streak by beating Holy Angels Academy. Junior running back Austin Bailey rushed for 86 yards and Joe Ellis added 42.

Knox said a key for the Packers in the playoffs with to have a balanced offensive attack.

"We've been passing the ball pretty well lately," he said. "And potentially, we got some good runners." That not only goes for senior quarterback Tucker Schieck, but running back Mark Cavanaugh. Cavanaugh has completed a half-back option pass each of the past three games, one for a TD. He also threw a touchdown pass on the final play of the game against Mankato West last week with the Packers' second-team offense.

"Offensively, the main thing we have to do is get a blocker on every single defender," Knox said.

The coach said if the Packers can stick to their blocking schemes, the team may be able to add a new offensive wrinkle against Red Wing.

"They're the No. 5 seed and we're No. 4," Knox said. "I think it's a good matchup for us."

Game preview, Page 10D

BOX: SECTION 1AAAA QUARTERFINALS

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Tuesday, 7 p.m., at Red Wing

What: First round of the seven-team Class AAAA, Section One tournament.

Records: Austin 1-7 overall; Red Wing 4-4. Austin is the No. 5 seed and Red Wing is seeded fourth.

Last game: Austin lost 28-6 at Mankato West; Red Wing beat Holy Angels Academy 13-3

Last meeting: Red Wing beat the Packers 15-6 in the 2000 section finals.

Red Wing notes: The Wingers have been the Section One champs the past two years in Class AAAA, including a win over Austin in the 2000 finals. The Wingers lost in the state semifinals to Mankato East last year. Red Wing started this season 3-0, lost four straight, and then won its final regular-season game. The Wingers have been more successful running the ball then passing this year with about 1,100 yards through the air and 800 on the ground.

Austin notes: Senior defensive/offensive end Matt Ball will miss his second straight game with a leg injury. The Packers need their offense to move the ball and score points to keep the defense fresh. Austin been held to two or fewer touchdowns in six of its eight games.

Up next: The winner will play at No. 1 seed Waseca, which has a bye, in the section semifinals on Saturday.

Radio: KAUS-AM (Austin, 1480).

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