Tigers give Packers a battle

Published 12:00 am Saturday, October 11, 2003

AUSTIN &045; They don’t call it Rivalry Week for nothing.

The Austin Packers’ 5-0 start and top 10 state rating? The Albert Lea Tigers’ 1-5 record and disappointing performance against Mankato East a week earlier?

They didn’t seem to matter much Friday night as the Tigers gave the Packers all they could handle before falling 28-14 in a Big Nine Conference football game at Austin.

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&uot;The kids did a very nice job bouncing back after Mankato East,&uot; said Albert Lea head coach Jeff Marty. &uot;I think we responded and played pretty well. A lot of nice things happened. It was a great turnaround from last week.&uot;

The Tigers showed early they came to play, starting with a 39-yard return of the opening kickoff by Stephen Thorn. Sparked by strong runs from Ross Habben and Thorn, the Tigers drove nine plays to a first-and-goal on Austin’s 3-yard line, where they fumbled and the Packers recovered.

Six plays later the Packers returned the favor, with Jared Butler gathering in an Austin fumble.

This time the Tigers held onto the ball and, five plays later, Ryan Truesdell scored on a 2-yard run. Habben’s PAT kick put Albert Lea up 7-0 with 3:01 left in the firstquarter.

The Packers quickly answered. Andy Swank ran 48 yards with the kickoff to the Tigers’ 32 and scored on a 1-yard run four plays later. The PAT kick tied it 7-7.

An interception on a tipped pass set up Austin’s next score, a 24-yard touchdown run by Swank, as the Packers took a 14-7 lead with 11:05 remaining in the first half.

Then, as rumored might happen, Coach Marty sent his sophomores in for the Tigers’ next offensive series. The wound up punting, but not before Arik Mattson and Nate Goodnature connected on a 28-yard pass for a first down.

The Tigers’ first team offense didn’t have to wait long to get back on the field as the defense forced a three-and-out.

On first down, Thorn completed a 39-yard pass to Truesdell that went to the Austin 1. Brandon Klukow scored on the next play and Habben added the PAT.

It remained 14-14 until early in the fourth quarter, when a 14-yard touchdown run by Swank capped a 14-play, 87-yard scoring drive for Austin.

After another Tiger punt, the Packers went 74 yards in nine plays to make it 28-14 with 5:22 remaining.

Austin held a 335-207 advantage in total yards, including 214-125 rushing.

Habben led the Tigers with 71 yards rushing on six carries. Klukow had 28 on six attempts. Thorn was 3-for-7 passing for 54 yards and one interception.

The Tigers end the regular season Wednesday at home against Rochester Mayo.