Packers use second half surge to blank Cougars

Published 9:57 pm Tuesday, September 26, 2017

There’s something about the second half that seems to be able to put the Austin boys soccer team in a frenzy. Austin has created a knack for scoring big in the second half and that trend continued as the Packers scored all of their goals in the second half of a 4-0 win over Mankato East in Art Hass Stadium Tuesday night.

The game was scoreless until Monday Wah, Lonyjera Okal and Sam Bailey all scored in a two-minute stretch to make it 3-0 early in the second half.

Austin’s Henry Tolbert takes a shot during the first half Tuesday night at Art Hass Stadium. Eric Johnson/

Austin head coach Jens Levisen said Austin has made its mark in the second half this season by sticking to the system and not panicking.

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“It’s a matter of being aware that all game we’re just up there knocking,” Levisen said. “Guys are trying to create those opportunities and they have trust in each other to keep the course. We believe in what we’re doing, we’re going to keep getting after it and it’s going to come. It’s happened more in the second half [this year].”

The Packers (9-0-1 overall, 7-0 Big Nine) saved their most impressive goal for last when OJ Cham launched a 40-yard crossing pass that Bailey knocked in with a header with 2:24 left in the contest. Bailey said he had called for the play ahead of time, and Cham was perfect with his pass.

Austin’s Elton Tolbert guides the ball deep into Mankato East’s zone during the first half Tuesday night at Art Hass Stadium. Eric Johnson/

“Right before that play, I told OJ I was going back post and if he hit it back there, I’d go up for it,” Bailey said. “I was just able to get my head on it. It almost surprised me.”

Cham said he has full trust in Bailey when the two are on the soccer field together.

“Sam’s like a brother to me from soccer,” Cham said. “We met through soccer and we’re going to finish out through soccer. All we’ve got to do is look at each other and we know what the other is doing. We call it dropping dimes. Kevin [Ortiz] did it first, so I had to do it too.”

Austin fired off 20 shots in the win and Josh Brehmer had eight saves in net. The Packers attacked the Cougars (7-5 overall, 5-3 Big Nine) from a variety of angles as the team was willing to share the wealth.

Austin’s Sam Bailey tries to weave his way through the Mankato East defense during the first half Tuesday night at Art Hass Stadium. Eric Johnson/

“I enjoy how much we play as a team,” Bailey said. “We play with the ball in the midfield a lot, and it’s pass, pass, pass, pass goal.”

Austin has just two home games remaining in the regular season and they will host a big rival when Rochester Lourdes comes to Art Hass Stadium Saturday at noon.

Cham, a senior, said he has been pumped up for every home game this season.

“We don’t have that many games at home this year, so we stay to cherish every one of them,” Cham said. “I think we’ve got the best copmlex in the state.”

Before Austin takes on Lourdes, it will play at Rochester Mayo Thursday at 7 p.m. Levisen said he wants his team to take it one game at a time and stay focused on the Spartans over the next couple of days.

Austin’s Kevin Ortiz knees the ball forward ahead of Mankato East’s Arafat Hire Tuesday night at Art Hass Stadium. Eric Johnson/

“We know how big of an opponent Lourdes has been in the past, but at the same time we know how big of an opponent Mayo has been in the past,” Levisen said. “It’s homecoming week, there’s a lot going on and you’ve got to clear your head and stay focused.”

Austin’s Lonyjera Okal tracks down the ball during the first half against Mankato East Tuesday night at Art Hass Stadium. Eric Johnson/