Flying High: Packers are Section 1A champs for third straight year

Published 9:31 pm Thursday, October 17, 2019

WINONA — Dylan Hanegraaf was just a sophomore three years ago when the Packers started to make themselves known as a soccer power in Section 1A.

Now he’s a senior captain midfielder on an Austin team that is headed to its third straight Minnesota Class A State Boys Soccer Tournament after the Packers topped Rochester Lourdes 3-2 in the Section 1A title game in Paul Giel Field Thursday.

Hanegraaf and his fellow seniors were never content with taking third place in the state tournament in each of the last two seasons. They stayed motivated throughout the summer to push for a third run at the big match and now they’re right back in it.

Austin’s Andres Garcia puts a foot into the fray during the first half of the Section 1A championship against Rochester Lourdes Thursday night in Winona. Eric Johnson/

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“We had some young guys when I was a sophomore who were pretty good and we kept playing together throughout that summer and it built our chemistry even more for the next two years,” Hanegraaf said. “We’re like family and we’re always having fun. This is just a confidence booster for us.”

The Eagles (12-6-1 overall) scored two goals in the final 20 minutes to cut into Austin’s 3-0 lead, but the Packers did just enough to hold off their charge. Andres Garcia put Austin up 3-0 after he cut through the defense and fired a shot to the opposite post with 31:19 left in the game. He nearly duplicated that goal to ice the game with 1:43 left.

However, Garcia’s shot glanced off the post.

“We just had to keep our heads strong. We had to fight for every ball,” Garcia said. “I had one chance at the end that didn’t go my way, but I’m just glad for the win. We played fast and we tried to rack up as many goals as we could. Unfortunately, they scored twice on us, but we just kept going.”

Austin’s Kee Reh just misses on a corner kick against Rochester Lourdes during the first half of the Section 1A championship Thursday night in Winona. Eric Johnson/

Poe Reh scored off a corner kick to put Austin up 1-0 with 22:16 left in the first half and Luke Evenson connected on a penalty kick to make it 2-0 with 13:14 left in the first half. The Packers looked to be cruising to state, until the Eagles picked up their play.

Daniel Brown put Lourdes on the board when he drilled a 25-yard free kick with 19:28 left in the game and Brown set up another Lourdes score when the Eagles ended up with a goal on another deep shot with 13:33 left in the game.

“Their first goal was a beautiful shot, but if I could’ve paused it I would have told the guys to take a deep breath and to do the things they’re capable of doing,” Austin head coach Jens Levisen said. “We knew that they would bring a good match and we certainly expect that.”

Hanegraaf said the Packers never lost their cool, even as a foe they have seen in eight different Section 1A title games over the last 11 years, was coming for them.

“They scored twice. It happens,” Hanegraaf said. “We just had to keep that positivity going and we would win the game. I think we played pretty well and we kept with it. “

Anga Lual coasts through the crowd on a corner kick against Rochester Lourdes during the first half of the Section 1A championship Thursday night in Winona. Eric Johnson/

The Packers (14-2-2 overall) have been able to win three straight Section 1A titles with three different senior groups. This year’s team has 16 seniors, and Garcia, a junior, said it has been a good group to play with.

“We lost a lot of good teammates and good friends from last year’s team, but this senior class is good as well,” Garcia said. “They’re as good as last year’s seniors were.”

The state tournament quarterfinals are seeded and will be held at location and time to be determined. The Minnesota Class A semifinals will be held at at US Bank Stadium in Minneapolis at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. on Oct. 28 and the state title game will be held in US Bank Stadium at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 31.

Austin’s Henry Tolbert leans past Rochester Lourdes’ Matt Steinmetz during the first half of the Section 1A championship Thursday night in Winona. Eric Johnson/