Packers lose Section 1AA title game in shootout

Published 10:45 pm Tuesday, October 19, 2021

ALBERT LEA -— For the third straight season, the Packers boys soccer team had their final contest of the season go the distance.

Unfortunately for Austin, they came up short for the second time out of those marathon games, losing to No. 2 seed Byron 3-2 on a shootout in the Section 1AA title game at Jim Gustafson Field Tuesday night.

The shootout saw a total six goals scored by the Bears, with Ethan Klein hitting the effective game winner after Austin’s Javier Juarez was denied on a tying attempt by Byron keeper Ryan Anderson.

The Packers lost in the Minnesota Class A Boys State Soccer Tournament quarterfinals to St. Cloud Tech on a shootout in 2019, and they beat Dover-Eyota in a shootout in the Section 1A title game last season. Austin head coach Jens Levisen has never been a fan of shootouts and his feelings certainly didn’t change after Tuesday’s loss.

“I’d rather just let them play until they all pass out,” Levisen said. “I’d rather see them keep playing until somebody breaks the tie. It’s not a fun way to lose and it’s not a fun way to win. It’s tough. Definitely not the preferred way to go.”

The pressure was cranked up after the first round of shooters ended in a 3-3 tie, meaning both teams had to take turns hoping the other would miss. Nicholas Asmus made one shot to extend the shootout in the sudden death round and Byron scored on both of its chances.

Austin missed two of its first five shots in the shootout, but Lennyn Ortiz Reyes, Leonardo Hernandez and Por Htoo all connected. Htoo’s shot kept the game alive as Austin was trailing 3-2 in the shootout.

The Packers used a late push to force the extra session. Austin trailed by a goal for 28 minutes in the second half before junior Kaleb Tedesse gave the Packers a shot of life after he took a pass from Joel Thwang and hammered it home to tie the game at 2-2 with 5:30 left.

“They played with a lot of heart,” Levisen said. “Guys stepped up and we had looks that were close.”

Tedesse nearly won it for Austin in the first OT when he launched an arcing shot at the net that was stopped with 4:09 left.

Austin had two late chances to win the game on a free kick and a corner, but their best shot came when Adian Martinez was denied on a header attempt with 1:20 left.

“We didn’t want to give up. The fans were here for us and we were motivated,” Tedesse said. “Our chemistry earlier this year wasn’t very good, but we finished on a good note.”

Tedesse didn’t shoot in the shootout, but he had respect for all of the players who stepped up.

“I was nervous and I didn’t want to kick. For the guys who did kick, it’s not their fault,” Tedessee said. “A penalty kick under pressure is the hardest thing.”

Byron (12-5-1 overall) had taken a 2-1 lead when Garrett Johnson put in a header with 32:55 left in the game.

Austin nearly tied things up at 2-2 with 24 minutes left in the game when Tedesse missed a shot off the crossbar and Thwang’s put back attempt sailed wide right of an open goal.

The Bears scored a big shot of momentum with 36 seconds left in the half when Liam Schick was able to get free and drilled a shot from 25-yards out. That shot tied things up at 1-1.

The Packers had taken a 1-0 lead in unorthodox fashion as Joe Ewing threw a bullet pass from the sideline to find Martinez, who knocked it in with a header with 11:27 left until the break.

The same duo nearly struck gold earlier in the half on a similar play when Martinez had a header from Ewing trickle into the foot of Thwang, who was denied on a rocket shot, just 10 feet away from the net.

The Packers were playing the match without senior midfielder and captain Poe Reh, who was injured in a 1-0 win at Winona in the Section 1AA semifinals last week.

Logan Pederson had 15 saves for Austin, which had 14 shots on net.

Byron defeated Austin 3-1 on Oct. 9.

The Packers (8-7-3 overall) had their string of four straight section and conference titles snapped this season, but the team does have high hopes for the future, with a lot of young players coming up.

“You don’t want to look on too fast, you’ve got to be in the moment for the seniors who won’t have this opportunity again. You want to let them take in this experience for what it was,” Levisen said. “A month or two from now we’ll start thinking about those guys that are coming back and what they need to do.”