BY JIM MISUNAS
A bright October harvest moon was the perfect backdrop for Great Bend's thrilling 3-2 overtime soccer victory over McPherson.
In a game with wild swings punctuated by two penalty kicks, three yellow cards, Panther Gustavo Alvarado delivered the game-winning goal
Teammate Alex Galindo fed a perfect pass to Alvarado who ignited a wild celebration with a blast that beat goalie Kelvin Peterson 34 seconds into overtime.at Cavanaugh Field.
"It was a great play overall by Alex Galindo. I knew I needed to make it," Alvarado said. "The crowd definitely had a lot to do with our win without a doubt. The crowd was a game-changer. They helped us and cheered us on. It was a tough match that went to overtime. I'm happy to get the win tonight for our seniors."
The Panther football team sparked a loud and rowdy home crowd that fueled the Panthers' second-half offensive surge. The home victory was one of the most exciting finishes in Panther soccer history.
"We loved that energy. We found a way to stay composed and used that energy in the right way," said Great Bend coach Jesus Loera. "We played forward and put ourselves in attacking position. There's not a better win this year. We won on Senior Night, our last home game. To win it in that fashion in overtime, That's our best win we've achieved this year."
McPherson led 1-0 on Caden Hardgrove's blast (19:04) that beat Panther goalie Edwin Chavez. Peterson delivered the game's signature defensive play when he stopped a Juan Sanchez' penalty shot on the final play of the first play.
Time-after-time, the Panthers Galindo, Juan Sanchez and Alvarado kept attacking the McPherson defense. It finally paid off when Alvarado's extra effort slipped a shot (61:56) past McPherson goalie Peterson for a 1-1 tie.
"I saw the keeper step up a bit because he thought I'd pass the ball. I took my chance," Alvarado said.
McPherson's Kayden McVicker (51:28) handed the Bullpups a 2-1 lead when the Panthers' defense mishandled a free ball. The Panthers were tagged with a trio of yellow cards.
Again, the Panthers' midfielders kept winning 50/50 balls to ignite a high-energy attack. This time, it paid off when Panther Jonathan Pasos scored on a penalty kick for a McPherson foul in the goal area for a 2-2 tie.
The Panthers (6-9-1) are projected to play Valley Center (9-5-1) in next week's 5A regional.
"We stayed mentally in the game and delivered a full game," Loera said.