Century uses strong special teams play to rally past Austin for first football victory

Oct. 2—ROCHESTER — A little extra work on special teams paid off in a big way for Century on Saturday.

The Panthers used a blocked field goal late in the second quarter to turn momentum against Austin as Century rallied for a 20-7 victory in Big Southeast District football. It was the Panthers' first win after starting the season 0-4.

Austin led 7-0 and was looking to go up by 10 when it lined up for a field goal with under a minute left in the half. But Century lineman Miles Prochnow burst up the middle to block the 28-yard attempt. Josh Berg scooped up the ball and went 79 yards for a touchdown with 40 seconds left in the half.

"Miles Prochnow did a great job of getting through and blocking it and I was just able to pick it up," Berg said.

The Panthers had worked on special teams play a little extra leading up to the game. And coach Jon Vik had an important message for his players. In high school, blocked kicks are not allowed to be returned on extra-point attempts. But blocks can be returned on field-goal attempts and he emphasized that point.

"It actually came to fruition and propelled us," Vik said. "... We kind of worked on it all week as far as pressure up the middle and the kids executed it. And we had the presence of mind to pick it up and run with it."

Despite a missed conversion, Century trailed just 7-6 at the half instead of 10-0 and the tide was turned in Century's favor in its homecoming game.

"That was huge, that changed the momentum of the game for sure," Century quarterback Harrison Esau said.

Esau threw touchdown passes of 18 yards to Berg in the third quarter and of 58 yards to Jacob Wills in the fourth to complete Century's comeback. Esau was 13-for-14 for 198 yards and two touchdowns. His only incompletion came on an interception with 3:44 to play.

"It really helped us that we were able to run the ball early," Esau said. "That opened up the pass because we haven't been able to run the ball like that this season."

Century didn't have a stellar ground game, but it did enough damage to open up some passing lanes. Esau was sacked three times for 27 yards in losses, so Century finished with a modest 60 yards rushing on 34 attempts. Century did pick up six rushing first downs, however.

"We were able to move the ball and get some first downs running the ball," Vik said. "It makes you more balanced and the other team has to be able to respect that."

Esau said he has worked hard with Berg, Wills and Elijah Thompson to help get the passing game going this season, putting in time with all three on a daily basis.

"I believe we have the best receivers in the Big Nine (Southeast District)," he said. "... I have all the trust in the world in those guys."

Wills had four catches for 78 yards, Berg had four catches four 71yards and Thompson snared one deep ball for 36 yards.

"We're all tight with each other," Berg said. "We love working with each other in the offseason and we love playing with each other."

Esau also said the Century offensive line had a strong game. That was especially true in the second half when the quarterback went 7-for-8 for 119 yards and two touchdowns.

"The line did a really good job of blocking and giving Harry time to throw the ball," Berg said.

The blocked field goal wasn't the only big play by the Century special teams. Wills had a key 36-yard punt in the fourth quarter that was downed and backed Austin up at its own 2.

"That's something we work on, trying to down the ball," Vik said. "That made a huge difference as far as field position in this game."

Sophomore Sam Winkels had a big defensive game for Austin with three sacks and a fumble recovery, all in the first half. Peyton Ransom caught six passes for 104 yards on offense for the Packers, and he also intercepted a pass.

But the Century defense held Austin scoreless in the second half, helping pave the way for the Panthers' first victory after playing the first half of their schedule against their toughest foes of the regular season.

"We had a great week of practice and I think that helped a lot," Berg said. "Now we just have to continue to build up (the momentum)."

The Panthers (1-4) will play at Northfield at 7 p.m. on Friday.

"We should be rolling from here on out and I believe we're going to be a tough team to beat in the playoffs," Esau said.

Austin (1-4) now has two straight tough games hosting Mankato West, ranked No. 1 in Class AAAAA, at noon this coming Saturday and then playing at Mayo.

There is a likely chance Century and Austin will meet again in the quarterfinals of the six-team Section 1AAAAA tournament.

Century 20, Austin 7

Austin 0-7-0-0 — 7

Century — 0-6-8-6 — 20

Second quarter

Austin — Isaac Osgood 18 pass from Jack Lang (Joe Ewing kick), 10:36.

Century — Josh Berg 79 blocked field goal return (kick failed), 0:40.

Third quarter

Century — Berg 14 pass from Harrison Esau (Jacob Wills pass from Esau), 2:23.

Fourth quarter

Century — Wills 58 pass from Esau (kick failed), 10:13.


Austin — Century

First downs 9 — 13

Total net yards 261 — 258

Rushing yards 24-66 — 34-60

Passing yards 198 — 185

Pass att-comp.-int. 13-14-1 — 11-30-0

Fumbles lost 3-1 — 1-0

Penalties yards 5-48 — 4-49

Punts/ave. 4-35.5 — 3-38.0



Austin — Tommy Fritz 20-71, Jack Lang 4-(-5). Century — Ahmante Davis 11-42, Christopher Garcia-Lara 4-26, Carson Skime 12-20, arrison Esau 8-(-28).


Austin — Jack Lang 11 completions, 30 attempts, 0 interceptions, 1 touchdowns, 195 yards. Century — Harrison Esau 13-14-1-2, 198 yards.


Austin — Peyton Ransom 6-104, Tommy Fritz 2-55, Isaac Osgood 2-31, Manny Guy 1-5. Century — Jacob Wills 4-78, Josh Berg 4-71, Jose Mares 2-7, Elijah Thompson 1-36, Christopher Garcia-Lara 1-5.

Missed field goals: Austin, Joe Ewing (28 BK).