Packers keep rolling

How's that for an end to the regular season?

The Austin High football team closed its regular season Wednesday night at Art Hass Stadium with its third consecutive victory.

The Packers won four of their final five games and ended the regular season with a .500 record (4-4) for the first time since 2004.

For a program that won just one game over the final three seasons combined, it was the ultimate turnaround.

The Packers put an exclamation mark on the regular season with Wednesday's 39-7 Big Nine Conference victory over Mankato East.


"I thought it was our best performance of the season on both offense and defense," Austin coach Brett Vesel said.

The Packers defense forced a couple of turnovers and recorded a whopping six sacks in giving up a season-low seven points. Quarterback Ryan Synoground guided the Austin offense with his most efficient game of the season. He rushed for more than 100 yards for the first time and threw for nearly 200 yards with his highest completion percentage of the season.

"Nate gets a lot of pressure from me; I'm on him a lot," Vesel said. "But he played very well. He's improving."

Elijah Dahmen and Ethan Horstmann paced the defense. Dahmen had a pair of sacks and three other tackles for loss, while Horstmann had a couple of sacks and an interception.

"We were flying to the ball," Dahmen said. "I thought it was our best game. And the offense, you look out there and they're rolling."

Austin will hit the road for the opening round of the Section One, Class AAAAA playoffs.

With top-seeded Owatonna (8-0), Rochester Mayo (5-3), Rochester John Marshall (5-3) and Faribault (5-3) all checking in with winning records, the Packers will get a rematch against the Falcons at 7 p.m. Tuesday. Owatonna and Mayo receive first-round byes, and JM will host Century in the other first-round game.

The Packers enter the postseason as one of the hottest teams in the section. "We don't care who we play now," Horstmann said. "We have a lot of confidence. We just want to keep this thing going."

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