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Packers rise above Winhawks in Section 1A quarterfinals

Tripping, pushing and hard fouls.

The Austin boys soccer team saw it all in a Section 1A quarterfinal with Winona and the Packers never backed down as they eliminated the Winhawks with a 4-1 victory in Art Hass Stadium Thursday night.

The only thing that could stop Austin senior Andres Garcia on the night was a hard foul. Garcia provided the bulk of the scoring for the Packers (11-0-1 overall) as he scored his 27th, 28th, and 29th goals of the season, but he was briefly knocked out of the game when he was taken to the ground in the open field with ten minutes left.

Garcia returned to the field with six minutes left.

“I had to come put it to bed and I just fought through a little injury so we could finish the win,” Garcia said. “We just tried to play our game. Teams are going to try to do certain things to stop us, but we just kept our heads up.”

Garcia collected a pass on a free kick from Jose Valladeres and punched it in from 15 yards out to put Austin up 1-0 with 20 minutes left in the first half. His second goal came off a 43-yard free kick from Valladeres that deflected off of the right post and fell right into his lap for a score. Garcia made it an official hat trick when he connected on a penalty kick with 36 minutes left in the game.

“It’s crazy,” Garcia said. “At the beginning of the season, I didn’t expect to score this much. It just comes naturally now with Jose setting me up, it just makes it so much easier. He can pick a pass out of anything and it’s my job to finish them.”

Casey Berg, who had five saves, hasn’t faced a lot of tough shots this season, but he made a key leaping save to keep the Packers up 2-0 with five minutes left in the first half.

Winona (4-5-2 overall) was playing short a player due to an earlier red card when it scored a goal. Shortly after the goal, there was some pushing and shoving in the net, but the Packers were able to keep their calm and Winona was handed a yellow card.

“It was mostly words during that,” Berg said. “We wanted to make sure we stayed calm and played our game.”

Austin head coach Jens Levisen said the last thing he wanted was any Packers picking up a red card or a second yellow card, which would have resulted in that player being suspended for the following game.

“That was definitely something we were watching and that’s why Henry (Tolbert) didn’t play the last 32 minutes of the game. Any time he had the ball, they were on him,” Levisen said. “Anybody that had a card was going to sit, because we didn’t want to have a foul that would cost us. We wanted to keep playing and not get sucked in (to the physical play).”

Eighth-grader Joel Thwang provided the exclamation point on the win when he connected on a shot from 25-yards out with 2:55 left.

Austin fired off 22 shots on goal in the win.

The Packers will host Pine Island/Zumbrota-Mazeppa (10-2-1 overall) in a Section 1A semifinal at 7 p.m. Monday and the Section 1A title game is set to be played in Saint Charles at 7 p.m. Wednesday.

“Our guys will be pumped for that last game,” Levisen said. “That will be the last game on the field for this group. We’ll be ready to come out and play.”