In a Minnesota State High School Class A boys’ soccer quarterfinal game that lived up to the billing of two evenly matched teams duking it out, the fourth seeded Austin Packers and the fifth seeded St. Cloud Tech Tigers battled through regulation and two overtime periods, but in the end the Tigers were able to tally one more goal in a wild penalty kick shootout to deal the Packers a heartbreaking 2-1 loss.
St. Cloud Tech struck first in the 27th minute when fullback Samuel Putz hooked a cross into the penalty area from 30 yards out that was headed into the net by the Tigers’ leading scorer, Ethan Miller to put Tech on top, 1-0. Miller had another goal later in the half disallowed due to offsides, and the Packers’ best chance of the half occurred earlier when Henry Tolbert was stopped from the right side of the penalty area by Tiger keeper Christian Engel, and the rebound was fired over the open net for a goal kick.
The Packers evened things up in the second half when Keh Reh slid a pass to Tolbert, who dribbled toward the top of the box and fired a bullet from 25 yards straightaway past Engel to tie the game at 1 in the 54th minute. Neither team was able to break the deadlock before the end of regulation and the match went into overtime tied at 1.
St. Cloud Tech had the better of the offensive play in the first overtime, but a shot off the post and some sparkling saves by Packer keeper Casey Berg sent the match into the second overtime. Neither team was able to tally a golden goal, so the game would be decided by one of the strangest penalty kick shootouts in state tournament history.
The Packers went first and Julio Hernandez started toward the ball, hesitated and then went forward again, firing a shot past Engel for what seemed to be a 1-0 lead. Just before Miller was due to shoot first for the Tigers, the officials huddled and, after their discussion ruled that Hernandez’s goal did not count because of the hesitation move. Miller then scored for Tech to put the Tigers up 1-0 in the shootout, but Austin’s Jose Valladares beat Engel to even the score at 1. Berg then made a diving save on a low shot to his left by Zak Mohamed to keep the score knotted at 1 apiece. Lucas Evenson was next to shoot for Austin, and his rising shot to the upper left side of the net just sailed over the crossbar to keep the score tied. After Mohamed Yussuf tallied to put Tech back in front 2-1, the officials huddled again after learning that instead of ruling no goal earlier for Hernandez, he should have been allowed to shoot again. After a lengthy delay, Hernandez was awarded another penalty kick and buried the second one as he had the first to tie the shootout at 2. It was then Andres Garcia coming up as the fourth shooter for Austin, and he scored to give the Packers their first lead in the shootout 3-2.
St. Cloud Tech sent out Samuel Putz as their fourth shooter, and his shot eluded Berg to tie things up at 3. Elisha Simerson, the fifth shooter for Austin hit the far post on his attempt, which left it up to Khadar Korane of Tech to try and win it for the Tigers. His shot just eluded the diving Berg and gave St. Cloud Tech a 4-3 shootout win and the game.
Berg made nine saves overall in the match for the Packers, who finish a fantastic season with a record of 14-3-2 overall. It was a season that saw the Packers claim the Big 9 Conference title and their third straight trip to the state tournament, and their fourth overall in school history.
St. Cloud Tech improves to 16-2-1 on the season, and they advance to play either number 1 seed Holy Angels Academy or unseeded St. Croix Prep Academy next Monday afternoon at U.S. Bank Stadium in downtown Minneapolis at 4:00 p.m.