The Austin Packers boys’ soccer team, the No. 4 seed in the Section 1AA boys’ soccer tournament was looking for their fifth straight section title Tuesday evening as they traveled to Jim Gustafson Field in Albert Lea to meet the No. 2 seeded Byron Bears for the right to head to the State Class AA boys’ soccer tournament. The two teams put on quite a show for the large crowd on hand as they battled to a 2-2 tie through regulation time and two 10-minute sudden-death overtime periods before the Bears prevailed in the seventh round of a penalty kick shootout to win the shootout 5-4 and the match 3-2.
Austin struck first to take a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute with senior midfielder Joe Ewing was able to fire the ball into the penalty area on a throw-in from the left sideline in the offensive third, and freshman midfielder Aidan Martinez, the leading goal scorer for the Packers with 12 coming into the match was able to head the ball over Byron goalkeeper Ryan Anderson and into the net for his 13th goals and a 1-0 lead. The Bears countered late in the first half to tie the match at 1 when a left-footed strike from sophomore attacker Liam Schick from the left side in the 18-yard box found its way into the net in the 39th minute.
Byron carried that momentum into the second half when senior attacker Garrett Johnson scored on a header by the back post on a beautiful feed from senior midfielder Zach Ellavsky from about 35 yards out on the left side to give the Bears a 2-1 lead. Austin wasn’t going away, however, as the Packers stepped up their offensive pressure and saw that effort pay off in the 75th minute when freshman forward Joel Thwang fed a pass to Martinez, and his left-footed strike from the left side in the penalty area eluded Anderson for his first goal of the season, and the goal tied the match at 2 apiece.
The match stayed tied at 2 through the rest of regulation time and two 10-minute sudden-death overtime periods, resulting in a penatly kick shootout to determine a winner. Five shooters aside took part in the shootout, and senior midfielder Lennyn Ortiz Reyes, freshman midfielder Leonardo Hernandez and junior midfielder Por Htoo all scored for Austin, while Byron’s Noah Schrooten, Ryan Boyken and Bradley Pavon all tallied for the Bears, leaving a 3-3 tie after the first round. The second round of the shootout turned to a sudden-death format, and Austin’s Nicholas Asmus and Byron’s Connor Krogstad both tallied in the first round. Ethan Klein of the Bears then scored to start the seventh round, meaning Austin’s Javier Juarez had to tally as well to send the shootout into the eighth round, but Anderson made a diving save on Juarez’s shot low to the left side to give Byron the win.
With the loss, their second of the season to Byron, Austin finishes with a record of 8-7-3.