The following is part eight in a summer series of some of the most memorable moments in Barton athletics.
It was November 9, 2002.
The Barton Community College men’s soccer team had already done what not many had expected – won the Region VI Championship and dethroned Johnson County.
But now the Cougars were taking the field in Union, Mo. to take on East Central Missouri for the Central District Championship and the right to go to the NJCAA National Tournament.
All this in just the second year of the program.
The first year by all measures was a success with Barton posting an 8-8-3 mark and making it to the Region VI championship contest.
Coach Joe Burger started the Barton program from scratch in 2001. He filled his roster with mostly players from Kansas and Colorado with some international kids sprinkled in.
The team played its home games at Cavanaugh Field in Great Bend that first season. As that initial season went along the Cougars improved and by the time the Region VI playoffs came Barton was playing some pretty good soccer.
But the Cougars could not conquer then king of the region Johnson County losing in the title game on penalty kicks.
The fall of 2002 started with some high hopes that Barton might be able get back to the title game.
But right out of the gates in that 2002 season Barton lost to KCK and Johnson – two of the top teams in the region along with Cloud County at the time.
The loss to Johnson was the first game at the new home field on the campus of Barton.
After losing to traditional power Tyler (Texas) in the opening round of the Mid-Kansas Shoot-Out at Barton, the Cougars were just 1-3-1.
The Cougars were staring 1-4-1 right in the face with Top 20 ranked Iowa Central the following day but a 2-0 win not only stopped the bleeding it changed the entire season.
Sophomore Todd Brittingham and Braulio Filoteo each scored in the win and Barton would not be the same team after that.
“That was the turning point in our season,” Burger said. “That really brought out the spirit in the kids. They decided we wanted to turn the season around and play for each other. That is exactly what they did.”
Brittingham and Gui Cury were the two forwards for the Cougars. The midline consisted of Mario Ulloa, Kenny Muganza, Filoteo, and Zack Roberts.
“Mario really took control in the midfield,” Burger said. “They were a pretty industrious midfield. They did a lot of work for each other and with each other.”
Ironically, Ulloa was already on campus when Burger took the job and was looking to recruit a team. He was at Barton to play tennis.
He would end up being the first team All Region and All Conference player both years and leave the career leader in goals – albeit two seasons into the program.
But it was in the back where Barton was really strong.
Behind the stellar play of sophomore goal keeper Trevor Laborda and a stingy back line Barton didn’t allow another goal the rest of September following that Iowa Central win.
“Trevor went into a zone during that stretch,” Burger said. “It was like he was going to save any ball that was coming at him.”
After a seven-save effort against Iowa Central, Laborda, from Colorado, followed with nine saves in a 3-0 win over Cloud County.
The backline of Kansas sophomores Sean Hubbard (Tecumseh), Ryan Daugherty (Rose Hill), and Chase Leach (Topeka) along with freshman Nick Kerr (Olathe) was finding its rhythm along with Laborda.
“They were a blue-collar Kansas backline,” Burger said. “They really came around with Trevor in goal and were a tough, tough defense.”
Daugherty said the backline started to jell the previous year.
“I think we really started to come together the year before toward the end of the season,” Daugherty said. “We started meshing as a unit. Then over the off season Coach Burger put us through a lot of workouts in the winter and spring.
“Trevor was amazing in goal. He allowed us to do some things on defense. We could drop back and we knew anything outside 18 yards he was going to save.”
Hubbard would even take it a step further with Laborda.
“Our defense was a solid back four but Trevor stuck it all together,” Hubbard said. “He commanded the back line. My parents still talk about it today some 13 years later. Just the way he would phrase things. He knew exactly where he wanted you to be and would let you know it. He would hold you accountable if you weren’t where you were supposed to be.”
Barton dominated Hesston 7-0 as the Larks put just one shot on goal then the Cougar defense stifled Dodge City, allowing just two shots on goal in a 2-0 win at home. A 3-0 win at Allen County followed.
By the time the team rolled into Mankato, Minn. for the Bethany Lutheran Tournament the Cougars had not allowed a goal in five straight contests with Laborda stopping the last 22 shots on goal.
Barton’s winning streak reached six games with a 2-1 win over Bethany Lutheran that first Friday in October. The Cougars saw that winning streak end with a 2-2 tie with Iowa Central the next day but the unbeaten streak remained intact at seven games.
It would eventually reach 10 games with another win at Hesston followed by ties at Northern Oklahoma and Dodge City.
That would be as far as the unbeaten streak would get as Barton headed to San Jacinto to take on the No. 6 ranked team in the nation. San Jacinto won that contest 4-1.
Barton went to the Region VI playoffs with a 10-4-4 record at the No. 3 seed in the event.
The Cougars opened the post season on its home turf and rode the leg of Ulloa’s three goals and its defense to a 3-0 blanking.
The Cougars earned a hard-fought win over KCK in the semifinals as Cury scored in the second overtime to post a 2-1 win moving Barton to the finals on a cold, rainy night in Hesston.
“Being in Hesston we weren’t planning on spending the night,” Burger said. “With the two overtimes it was late when we got back to campus and we had them ready at 11 to play the next day.”
Standing in the way was Johnson – whom Barton was 0-3 against in its two years as a program.
In the Region VI title game, Ulloa scored his 11th goal of the season just six minutes into the game on a free kick.
“We literally defended for the next 84 minutes,” Burger said. “It was that kind of will and tenacity that carried us through.”
That would be the only goal of the game as Laborda did everything but stand on his head in goal for his 10th shutout of the season. He stopped 12 shots on goal as the Cougars shutout Johnson 1-0 in the Saturday afternoon affair.
“He played out of his skull,” Burger said of Laborda. “He was on a different planet that game.”
In the final seconds the defense came through one last time. On a corner kick the ball was bounding near the Barton goal with a chance for Johnson to tie.
“I remember Chase (Leach) and I in the box with about 30 seconds left and the ball bouncing around,” Daugherty said. “We just dropped to our knees, it hit us in the chest and Chase cleared. The final whistle went off and it was a great feeling.”
While the Iowa Central game changed the season, the Johnson win in the Region VI title game changed the future of the region.
“That win was a defining moment for Barton to rise on the national scene as a power,” Burger said.
“We knocked off the region power and we were the new boy in town. In a lot of ways that was the changing of the guard in our region.”
While that may have been an accomplishment to hang its hat on, Barton was not done.
After the tough start the Cougars had gone 12-1-3 with the only loss to a Top 10 team in the nation.
Standing in the way of a trip to the NJCAA National Tournament in just the second year of the program were the East Central Rebels.
It was very windy that afternoon just southwest of St. Louis.
“It was like a western Kansas wind,” Burger said. “I think that gave us an advantage. They hadn’t played in those conditions and we were used to it.”
The Rebels took a 1-0 lead in the 17th minute before Filoteo tied the game at 1-all on a Brittingham assist in the 19th minute.
East Central immediately responded with another goal for a 2-1 lead just one minute later.
Then Brittingham and Filoteo changed rolls as Brittingham scored on a Filoteo assist in the 29th minute to tie the game at 2-all and wrap up a furious 12 minutes of soccer.
“It was crazy,” Burger said. “They would score and we would score right on top them to tie it. We did that twice – both times into the wind.”
That is how it would stay for roughly the next two hours.
“I think we were kind of surprised and had enough after they scored that second goal on us,” Hubbard said. “We knew what we were supposed to do in the backline. We just kind of drew the line in the sand and said enough is enough.”
The second half was scoreless as was the first overtime. When the two teams played a scoreless second overtime it was on to a shootout to determine the Central District Champion.
So it came down to penalty kicks – five kicks for each team.
“I couldn’t watch,” Hubbard said. “I didn’t watch. I had my back to it.”
The Rebels shot first in the shootout and took a 1-0 lead then Nick Webb made it 1-all with a goal in the second round.
Both shooters missed in the third round before East Central took a 2-1 lead in the fourth round putting the Cougars backs to the wall.
Ulloa responded. The sophomore from Mexico City evened it at 2-all with a goal immediately on the heels of the Rebels goal in the fourth round.
Tied at 2-all each team had one shooter left.
East Central’s Wesley Louissaint’s kick for the Rebels was saved by Laborda.
It all came down to Brittingham, the sophomore from Rose Hill. His freshman season at Barton saw him record just one assist. As a sophomore he had blossomed into one of the top players on the team and its leading goal scorer.
Now it was his right foot that could send the Cougars to Tyler, Texas and the NJCAA Tournament.
“I was quietly confident,” Daugherty recalled. “I grew up playing with Todd from youth to high school and club. I had seen him on PK’s numerous times and there was a reason he was our last shooter.”
“I knew which way he was going to go and was just hoping their goalie was going to guess wrong.”
The 6-4 Brittingham approached the goal and froze the keeper who thought he was going to his left but instead Brittingham went to his right and put the ball in the net.
“It was complete euphoria,” Hubbard recalls. “We were just so excited. No one had played in that kind of environment before.”
It was a moment Burger said he will never forget.
“It really doesn’t get much more special than that,” Burger said. “Winning on PK’s to go the national tournament. That was really special.”
At the national tournament Barton drew the No. 7 and was beaten in the first round by Mercer College (NJ), 4-0. Mercer would end up second at the event. The Cougars then lost a 3-1 consolation game to Louisburg (NC) to end the season.
“As a coach you really only remember everything about a few games,” Burger said. “To remember four games that season – Iowa Central, KCK, Johnson, and East Central, nearly blow for blow almost 15 years later tells you how memorable that season was.”