Gallery: Packers edge Tigers

Published 10:19 pm Friday, September 5, 2014

Sam Thompson of Albert Lea breaks contain and runs down the right sideline Friday against Austin at Jim Gustafson Field. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

Sam Thompson of Albert Lea breaks contain and runs down the right sideline Friday against Austin at Jim Gustafson Field. — Micah Bader/Albert Lea Tribune

With 57.2 seconds left in regulation, the Albert Lea football team faced a pivotal decision: kick the extra point and tie the game or go for two and take the lead.

“We had a chance to go for the win,” said Tigers coach Kevin Armbrust. “Especially in this type of atmosphere, I trust our guys to move the ball three yards.”

After all, Albert Lea already scored six rushing touchdowns.

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However, Austin’s defense didn’t budge on the two-point conversion, and the Packers held off Albert Lea’s rally 42-41 Friday at Jim Gustafson Field.

“It was coach’s call, and I support him,” said running back Tim Christianson, who pounded the ball between the tackles for 73 yards and three touchdowns.

Fireworks started early for the Tigers. On Austin’s opening possession, quarterback Nate Conner was picked off by Albert Lea’s Emmitt Stevens, who returned the ball 40-yards to Austin’s 12-yard line.

On the Tigers’ first play from scrimmage, Jake Kilby punched the ball into the end zone on a quarterback keeper around the right side. Kilby led Albert Lea with 187 rushing yards.

“We’ve been coming together as a team — that’s the biggest thing,” Kilby said. “We are playing for each other, and that’s what keeps us going.”

Although that first touchdown was a one-play drive, Albert Lea had scoring drives of 12, 6, 10, 14 and 10 plays.

“It’s what we’re capable of doing,” Armbrust said. “Guys knew their assignments, our backs ran the ball very hard and the effort was outstanding up front.”

Austin answered with 4:53 left in the first quarter on Brandon Edgar’s first of five rushing touchdowns to tie the game at seven.

On the first play of the second quarter, Albert Lea regained the lead with a one-yard scoring run by Christianson.

Austin responded less than a minute later with a touchdown run by Edgar to tie the game at 14, and the Packers took their first lead of the evening on another scoring run by Edgar that was set up by a punt that was returned into the red zone.

Albert Lea mounted a six-play, 60-yard drive that was capped with a three-yard touchdown run by Kilby.

At halftime, the score was tied at 21.

In the third quarter, Austin outscored the Tigers 21-7 to take a 42-28 lead. However, the Tigers rallied.

Tim Christianson punched the ball into the end zone with 7:03 left in the game to cut the Tigers’ deficit to one possession, 42-35.

With 5:46 left in the game, Albert Lea started its last drive. Kilby completed his only pass of the game to Emmitt Stevens for a 29-yard gain, and a 15-yard penalty set up the Tigers at Austin’s 20-yard line. The Packers forced Albert Lea into a fourth-and-two situation with about two minutes left, and Christianson plowed his way through the heart of Austin’s defense to make the first down by the nose of the football. The drive culminated in a three-yard touchdown run by Chris Enderson, but the two-point conversion was no good.

The matchup could be the last between Albert Lea and Austin for some time, as Minnesota prep football will move to district scheduling next season, and the schools are in different districts. Albert Lea is in the 28-team South Central District, and Austin is in the 12-team Big Southwest District with the rest of the schools from the Big Nine Conference.

Although, the schools will have the option to drop a district game to keep the rivalry going.

Fans filled up the stands behind the Tigers sideline, and most stayed until time on the clock ran out.

“The fans were amazing,” Armbrust said. “I just want to say a big thank you to them from the team.”

Christianson said the plan is to learn from the game and then focus on the next opponent.

“We’ve got a 24-hour rule,” he said. “We think about it for 24 hours, we watch film and then we move on to the next game.”

Albert Lea (0-2 overall, 0-2 Big Nine Conference) hosts Northfield (1-1 overall, 1-1 Big Nine Conference) at 7 p.m. next Friday.

Statistics are in the Scoreboard: Sept. 5 post.