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Garcia stays hot as Packers roll past Cougars

Austin senior Andres Garcia has simply been unstoppable this season and he didn’t lose any momentum as he scorched Mankato East with four goals in a 6-0 Austin win in Art Hass Stadium Friday night.

Garcia has now scored 10 goals in his last three contests and he has 21 total goals for the Packers (8-0-1 overall, 8-0-1 Big Nine). He put up an array of lasers and rocket shots against the Cougars (3-5-2 overall, 3-5-2 Big Nine) and Garcia could have had a couple of more goals if not for a pair of diving saves.

Austin head coach Jens Levisen has seen a lot of great scorers for the Packers, but he hasn’t seen many stretches like the week Garcia just had.

“He’s just lighting it up. His goals tonight weren’t easy goals,” Levisen said. “They were all solid, well-placed shots. You can tell that he’s been putting time in on his own, working on his shot.”

Austin’s Peter Li battles against Mankato East’s Yahya Ibrahim in Art Hass Stadium Friday. Rocky Hulne/sports@austindailyherald.com

The Packers are now in a position to win their fourth straight Big Nine title as they travel to Northfield for a game that will decide the conference crown at 7 p.m. on Tuesday. Garcia was well aware of that game being on the schedule, but he also knew the Packers had to take care of the Cougars first.

“Whenever I saw an opening I just shot it,” Garcia said. “Northfield was obviously on our mind, but we’ve got to take it one game at time.”

Garcia now has five hat tricks this season after putting up zero hat tricks in his first two seasons as a Packer.

Austin senior Henry Tolbert added his 15 goals of the season in the win and sophomore Joe Ewing was able to notch a goal as well. Ewing has picked up a lot of lessons from playing next to Tolbert and Garcia this season.

Ewing jokingly asked Garcia if he was going to score three goals or four goals before Friday’s game and it turned out he wasn’t off.

“It’s crazy,” Ewing said. “I’ve been watching (Garcia and Tolbert) for the last three years and they’ve been such dominant forces on varsity. That’s crazy how they can do that on a regular basis. It’s fun to watch and it’s amazing to be a part of. It’s been an awesome experience.”

Garcia has embraced the role of being a leader for the Packers as he was once in Ewing’s shoes as an up and coming player.

“When I was younger, I always wanted to play on varsity and I always hung out with the older guys,” Garcia said. “Now I’m a senior and I’m one of the leaders.”

If Austin and Northfield tie on Tuesday, they will tie the conference title. But the Packers and Raiders (9-0-1 overall, 9-0-1 Big Nine) aren’t going to play for a tie, they’re going to try and win the conference outright.

“We’re going to go into it playing to win,” Levisen said. “You’ve got to play to win. We’re ready to play the best soccer we’ve played and they’re going to be the best opponent we’ve seen all year.”