BY JIM MISUNAS
DODGE CITY – Great Bend soccer coach Jesus Loera was proud after the Panthers shocked No. 1 6A powerhouse Dodge City 2-1 Tuesday.
The Panthers (6-8, 2-5 WAC) stunned the reigning Western Athletic Conference champions to stop the Red Demons’ 30-match WAC winning streak. Dodge City (12-1, 6-1 WAC) had not lost a WAC match in four years.
“That’s No. 1, the best win we’ve ever had,” said Loera. “To beat the No. 1 soccer team in 6A and hand them their first loss is pretty special. We played our game today in a very intense soccer game.”
Loera had predicted the Panthers would break through with a quality victory. But few would’ve expected the victory against Dodge City.
“I’ve told our guys when we play our game, we can play with anybody,” Loera said. “Now, they’ve proven they can beat anybody because they just beat the top-ranked soccer team in 6A. Our guys proved it on the field. Now, they believe in what we’re doing.”
The first half ended with a scoreless tie with heavy mist falling in 48-degree weather accompanied by a 12 mph north wind.
Junior Franco scored off a corner kick triggered by Armando Levya that the Dodge City goalkeeper wasn’t able to corral 10 minutes into the second half. Great Bend’s all-time leading scorer Dani Franco scored the second goal at the 14-minute mark off a crossing pass by Jaime Arellanes. Franco headed the ball past the Dodge City goalie, who was unable to collect the loose ball.
“We were able to swing the momentum with two quick goals,” Loera said. “But we knew Dodge City would put a lot of pressure on us the last 25 minutes.”
Sure enough, Dodge City’s Jesus Castillo converted a goal with 14:44 left in regulation. Loera swung the Panthers into a defensive mode, drawing Dani Franco into the defensive end.
“Dodge City had good scoring opportunities, but we played to our defensive strength,” Loera said. “We brought Dani Franco back on defense and that helped. We played great defensive soccer.”
The Red Demons have rarely trailed during their perfect 12-0 start. The Red Demons own eight shutouts and yielded one goal in four other victories.
“I don’t know how often they’ve been in that position of being behind, but there was definitely a sense of frustration,” Loera said. “We made some breaks and took advantage today. We finished plays and finished a quality game today.”
Loera said his secret coaching weapon was the contribution of assistant coaches Kino Adame and Aldo Rodrigo, who helped with the dymanic game plan.
“I give credit to our assistant coaches Kino Adame and Aldo Rodrigo, who played a big part in the win,” Loera said.
The Panthers travel to Liberal Oct. 15 after the Redskins routed the Panthers 10-0 in their first meeting.