Simerson’s OT goal sends Austin to state

Published 10:23 pm Thursday, October 18, 2018

After a game where both teams had trouble getting anywhere near the goal, Austin senior soccer player Caleb Simerson found himself standing in front of the net with his teammates mobbing him in pure jubilation.

Simerson had just given Austin its second straight trip to the state tournament when he knocked in a header in the third minute of overtime for the top-seeded Packers as they knocked off No. 2 Rochester Lourdes (10-8 overall) 1-0 in the Section 1A title game Art Hass Stadium Thursday night.

Simerson’s score came off a corner kick from fellow senior Mooday Wah, who’s kick bounced off the cross bar and into Simerson’s range.

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“It was wide open for me. I went in and gave it my all. I got a good head on it and it just went in,” Simerson said. “There’s nothing like this. I’ll remember this moment for the rest of my life and it will be really fun looking back at this. I’m really happy for my team. We wanted this more than anything.”

Wah, who nearly gave Austin the lead when he had a breakaway stopped with 10:40 left in regulation, wasn’t exactly looking for Simerson, but he was thrilled to be part of such an important goal.

“I was looking for Danny [Vargas] and at the end Caleb ended up scoring. I’m very happy,” Wah said. “Last year [when we went to state] was the only other time I’ve felt like this.”

Austin keeper Casey Berg goes over Rochester Lourdes’ Donovan Buss during the second half of the Section 1A championship Thursday night at Art Hass Stadium. Eric Johnson/

The Packers (16-2 overall) had controlled possession for much of the second half, but the Eagles had one big chance at a corner kick with 7:35 left in regulation when Austin sophomore Casey Berg had to make a leaping save. Berg, who was the goalie of a state champion Austin U16 soccer team over the summer, made just four saves Thursday, but he made some big ones as he also made a diving stop in the first half.

“The summer got me used to playing in big games, although this is much bigger,” Berg said. “I was nervous at first as the game went on, but I started getting used to it. It helped that the defense kept Lourdes from getting a lot of shots off. I just tried to keep on cheering my teammates and I tried to help them out with organization.”

Austin finished the game with just five shots on goal, but it had plenty of good looks sail just wide of the net in the second half. Austin head coach Jens Levisen said he told his team to keep hammering away as the game entered overtime.

Austin’s Juan Vera battles for the ball during the first half against Lourdes in the Section 1A championship Thursday night at Art Hass Stadium. Eric Johnson/

“We talked about making opportunities. We just had to keep pushing and creating opportunities,” Levisen said. “Sometimes the goal is going to be beautiful and sometimes it’s just because you happen to make that run. We wanted to stick the way we had been playing. It was going to fall.”

The trip to state, which will be third in program history for Austin, is another big achievement for the Packers, who shared its second Big Nine title in school history with Rochester Mayo this season. Austin senior Kevin Ortiz is also a Mr. Soccer Candidate for Class A.

Simerson said the Packers have stuck together throughout this season and the squad has built up a very strong bond.

“We’re just a family. We’re all really good friends and we all have really good chemistry,” Simerson said. “We’ve been playing together since we were kids and it’s been an honor playing with these guys.”