ANDOVER – Underdog Great Bend was 102 seconds away from overtime when Andover Central's soccer team delivered the game-winner.
Jaguar Colbin Luallen floated a perfect downwind free kick from 35 yards that Jared Cromly headed past Panther goalie Edwin Chavez with 1:42 left in regulation time to escape with a hard-earned 2-1 regional 5A soccer victory.
The Jaquars (10-5-2) play at Wichita Carroll (12-4-1) in Thursday's regional final. The Panthers finish 6-10-1 after reaching the 5A quarterfinals last year.
The Panthers gained the advantage when the Jaguars chose to play with the south wind after halftime. Alex Galindo scored the Panthers' goal (3:32). Sanchez outraced the Jaguars' defense on a free ball and scored against goalie Brandon Bumgarner.
Time-after-time, Galindo and Sanchez created several first-half scoring opportunities for themselves and teammates as the Panthers built their attack behind a south wind that gusted past 20 mph. Gustavo Alvarado and Brian Cervantes also had quality first-half shots.
"We were happy to get the wind because it gave us an opportunity to get on the board first," said Great Bend coach Jesus Loera. "We played well. The boys did what we asked of them. We had a game plan to possess the ball. We did a good job keeping 50 percent possession. We were one touch or one pass away from scoring again."
The momentum shifted quickly when the Jaguars were keyed by the south wind after halftime. Andover Central's Leo Wurth evened the score 1-1 at the 43:54 mark in the second half off a crisp centering pass by Cooper Carman.
Despite heading into the south wind after halftime, Galindo and Sanchez continued to apply offensive pressure on Bumgarner. The best scoring chance occurred when Galindo directed a nice centering pass to Alvarado, whose rocket shot bounced off the top of the goalpost (68:00).
Landen Collinsworth led the Jaguars' attack with creative play. Chavez' best first-half save came on a header by Prescott Deckinger.
Loera was pleased with all levels of the Panthers' game from offense, defense and the midfield. Defender Angel Razo delivered the best save when he protected a goal at the 23:20 mark.
"We had a few moments that didn't go our way," Loera said. "We played a good second-half possessing the ball and played with our feet to keep attacking. We got about six good looks, but our shots didn't go in. It was a close game that went down to the last couple of minutes. Unfortunately, Andover Central scored one more goal."
Panther seniors graduating are Brian Cervantes, Ezekiel Bujanda, Juan Sanchez, Jonathan Pasos, Salvador Garcia, Angel Razo, Noe Torres, Carlos Batres and Jonathan Ruiz.
5A WEST REGIONALS
REGION 1–REGION 1–Salina Central 7, Arkansas City 1; Maize South 6, Salina Central 0; Newton 3, Andover 2; THURSDAY–Maize South 15-1-1 vs. Newton 9-7-1
REGION 2–Maize 7, Topeka West 0; Goddard Eisenhower 1, Maize 0; Kapaun-Mt. Carmel 3, Goddard 0; THURSDAY–Eisenhower 14-2-2 vs. Kapaun Mt. Carmel 8-7-2
REGION 3–Wichita Carroll 3, Topeka Seaman 0; Andover Central 2, Great Bend 1; THURSDAY–Wichita Carroll 12-4-1 vs. Andover Central 10-5-2
REGION 4–Salina South 2, Emporia 0; Valley Center 1, Hays High 0; THURSDAY–Valley Center 11-5-1 vs. Salina South 5-10-2
6A WEST REGIONALS
REGION 1–Wichita Northwest 3, Campus 1; Washburn Rural 7, Wichita Northwest 0; Wichita East 2, Hutchinson 1; THURSDAY–Washburn Rural 16-0 vs. Wichita East 9-7-1
REGION 2–Wichita West 6, Wichita South 2; Dodge City 7, Wichita West 0; Topeka High 2, Wichita Southeast 1; THURSDAY–Dodge City 16-0-1 vs. Topeka High 9-6-2
REGION 3–Wichita North 7, Liberal 1; Manhattan 2, Wichita Heights 2; THURSDAY–Wichita North 15-1-1 vs. Manhattan 11-5-1
REGION 4–Derby 4, Junction City 0; Lawrence Free State 2, Garden City 1; THURSDAY–Derby 14-1-2 vs. Free State 8-7-2
4-1A WEST REGIONALS
REGION 1–Circle 1, El Dorado 0; Augusta 10, Circle 0; Winfield 3, McPherson 2 (4 OT, PK 4-3); THURSDAY–Augusta 15-2 vs. Winfield 11-6
REGION 2–Coffeyville 5, Hays-TMP 1, Buhler 1, Rose Hill 1; THURSDAY–Coffeyville 13-4 vs. Buhler 11-6
REGION 3–Wichita Trinity 3, Mulvane 0; Wichita Classical 1, McPheson Elyria 0; THURSDAY–Wichita Trinity 12-5 vs. Wichita Classical 9-7-1
REGION 4–Topeka Hayden 1, Topeka Cair Paravel 0 (4 OT, PK 4-1); Independence 2, Berean Academy 1; THURSDAY–Topeka Hayden 12-5 vs. Independence 11-4-2