Panthers’ soccer season ends
BY JIM MISUNAS
MAIZE – Great Bend’s Dani Franco converted a dazzling goal, which sparked an ovation from an enthusiastic Panther crowd.
Franco’s goal off a perfect pass from Jaime Arellanes sliced Maize South’s lead to 2-1 lead with 9:01 left, perhaps inspiring the underdog 15th-seeded Panthers to pull off another surprise.
For a few minutes, Great Bend coach Jesus Loera and his Panthers believed they would upset their third consecutive higher-seeded opponent. Great Bend transported several busloads of students, who backed their team.
“We believed and kept pushing forward,” said Loera. “We played all the way through. We were one goal from the equalizer and a new game. It’s difficult to come back.”
James Evans ruined those plans with a header that slipped past goalie Alberto Leyva with 5:39 left for a 3-1 victory that sends the Mavericks into 5A state’s Final Four. Maverick striker Landon Eskridge scored the first two goals.
Great Bend (9-11) qualified for the 5A quarterfinals for the first time since 2012. The game was played in 55-degree weather with a 15-mph north wind.
“Maize South played an excellent game and were the better team today,” Loera said. “I’m proud of our effort. We have no regrets the way we played. We just came up short. We’ll learn from this and we understand what it takes to get to this point.”
The Mavericks disrupted the Panthers’ offense and controlled the ball to dictate the game’s tempo. The Mavericks played a fast tempo and constantly put together quick passes in transition.
“They shut down our offensive options,” Loera said. “Their defense took everything away. They cut away our offense.”
Maize South (16-3) will play Lenexa St. James (10-8-1) and Wichita Carroll (14-4) will meet Blue Valley Southwest (14-4) in Friday’s 5A semifinals at Topeka.
Goalie Leyva delivered several quality saves. Panther defender Angel Razo rescued Leyva by deflecting several quality shots. Razo blocked back-to-back shots by Eskridge and Cooper Joseph at the 24-minute mark, then duplicated the feat at the 13-minute mark.
“We had good moments defensively,” Loera said.
Eskridge’s breakaway goal at the 11-minute mark was nearly matched before halftime by Panther Francisco Garcia, whose shot went high after passes by Razo and Chiny Sanchez.
Evans’ nifty assist led to Eskridge’s second goal at the 20:35 mark of the second half for a 2-0 lead.
Franco missed wide (19:00) and Humberto Alonzo missed high (16:00) off quality Panther attempts.
5A WEST REGIONALS
SALINA—Great Bend 4, Newton 1; Great Bend 3, Salina Central 2; Salina South 3, Valley Center 2, OT; THURSDAY—Great Bend 3, Salina South 1
ANDOVER—Arkansas City 3, Goddard 2; Andover Central 7, Arkansas City 0; Wichita Kapaun Mt. Carmel 3, Wichita Heights 1; THURSDAY—Kapaun-Mt. Carmel 2, Andover Central 1
MAIZE—Maize South 4, Wichita Northwest 0; Goddard-Eisenhower 3, Maize 1; THURSDAY—Maize South 3, Eisenhower 2
MCPHERSON—McPherson; Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carme; THURSDAY—Kapaun-Mt. Carmel 1, McPherson 0
TUESDAY'S WEST QUARTERFINALS
Maize South 3, Great Bend 1
Wichita Carroll 2, Wichita Kapaun-Mt. Carmel 1
TUESDAY'S EAST QUARTERFINALS
Lenexa St. James 3, KC Washington 0
Blue Valley Southwest 2, St. Thomas Aquinas 1
5A STATE SEMIFINALS TOPEKA
Maize South 16-3 vs. Lenexa St. James 10-8-1
Wichita Carroll 14-4 vs. Blue Valley Southwest 14-4
5A EAST REGIONALS
EMPORIA—DeSoto 1, Emporia 0 (5-3 penalty kicks); Blue Valley Southwest 10, Topeka West 0; THURSDAY—Blue Valley Southwest 7, DeSoto 2
KANSAS CITY—Bonner Springs 1, Highland Park 0; KC Washington 6, Bonner Springs 0; Spring Hill 2, KC Turner 0; THURSDAY—KC Washington 4, Spring Hill 2
PITTSBURG—Pittsburg 3, KC Schlagle 2; St. Thomas Aquinas 6, Topeka Seaman 0; THURSDAY—St. Thomas Aquinas 6, Pittsburg 0
TOPEKA—Basehor 4, Lansing 0; Shawnee Heights 5, Basehor 1; Lenexa St. James 3, KC Sumner 0; THURSDAY—St. James 3, Shawnee Heights 1