Great Bend’s Junior Franco and Chiny Sanchez earned first-team All-Western Athletic Conference soccer honors. Franco was the Panthers’ top defender. Sanchez was an offensive sparkplug with his scoring and passing before breaking his wrist late in the season.
Sanchez finished with eight goals and a team-high 14 assists. He missed the final four games.
"Chiny got extra defensive attention, but he created space for other players," said Great Bend coach Jesus Loera. "He switched up his role as a scorer and his job was to find the open space and pass to his teammates. We were pleased by how well Chiny performed."
Franco was the anchor of the Panthers' defense, disrupting the middle of a team's offense.
"Our defense started with Junior because he would take on the other team's best player," Loera said. "Junior would steal the ball and push the ball forward for us. He was tough in the middle and hard to beat."
Great Bend (9-8-1) defeated Andover 3-1 in postseason play before losing 2-1 in overtime to eventual third-place finisher Goddard Eisenhower. Blue Valley Southwest beat Maize South 6-1 to capture the 5A state title.
"We scouted Goddard Eisenhower really well and went over the scouting report in a study session,: Loera said. "It showed when we took an unbeaten team to overtime."
Great Bend’s forward Francisco Garcia and midfielder Simon Hernandez earned second-team honors.
WAC champion Dodge City (17-4, 7-1 WAC) swept league honors behind WAC Player of the Year Alan Lopez and WAC Coach of the Year Saul Hernandez. Lopez scored 23 goals with 9 assists to pace the Demons’ offensive attack. Dodge City lost 1-0 in the 6A semifinals to Olathe West and defeated Wichita East 4-0 for third place.
Dodge City captured the WAC team title with a 2-0 victory over Liberal in the final game of the regular season.
“I was excited to hear about being named Player of the Year,” Lopez said. “I’m happy to get that, but more importantly, it reflects my contribution to the team. My teammates made me a better player, too.”
The Demons lost to Wichita Heights in overtime at the Wichita South Titan Classic. Liberal beat Dodge City 3-1 in September before St. Thomas Aquinas downed Dodge City in October.
“It was a big game because they had beaten us earlier in the year, and they also had beaten us for the WAC title in 2018, so to win that game and the league was huge for us,” Lopez said. “Everything was really intense and it was a great game for us to win.”
The Red Demons beat Hutchinson 10-0 and Wichita Southeast 2-0 to reach the 6A quarterfinals. Dodge City shut out Wichita Heights 3-0 to advance to the state semifinals in Topeka.
“The playoff run was really good for us as I think we showed we can play with any team in the state,” Lopez said. “Olathe West is a really good team. You can’t make mistakes in that type of game. We couldn’t get a score, but I know we played with a lot of energy and worked so hard to win the game.”
Dodge City head coach Saul Hernandez had high praise for his junior striker and is excited to have him for one more season.
“Alan is best at the striker position, but often time teams would mark him so we would move him to the wing to confuse the defense,” Hernandez said. “He’s our first defender when we lose the ball, and he’s almost always the first one to get to the ball and set the tone for the mid-fielders.”
Lopez, too, says he’s probably better at the striker position, but says playing on the wings also works to his strength.
“On the wing, we use the width of the field to play down the side of the line and take advantage of our speed and passing ability,” Lopez said.
A second-team Class 6A all-state in 2018 as voted on by the Kansas Soccer Coaches Association, Lopez has high hopes of being a first-teamer this season and then try to help his team win a state title in 2020.
He hopes to play at the college level after graduation in 2020, and has expressed an interest in pursuing a degree in business and/or accounting.
Hernandez said one of Lopez’ greatest assets is off the field, where he helps mentor the freshmen and volunteers to help pick up after practices and games to set an example for the younger players.
“You couldn’t ask for a better example of leadership,” Hernandez said.
Dodge City’s Diego Olivares and Erik Martinez; Liberal’s Victor Limon, Levi Flores and A.J. Ramirez; Garden City’s Moses Lares and Jairo Carillo and Hays High’s Matthew Goddale earned first-team honors.
DODGE CITY—Alan Lopez, 11; Diego Olivares, 12; Erik Martinez, 11
LIBERAL—Victor Limon, 12; Levi Flores, 12; A.J. Ramirez, 11
GREAT BEND—Junior Franco, Jr, 12; Chiny Sanchez, 12
GARDEN CITY—Moses Lares, 11; Jairo Carillo, 11
HAYS—Matthew Goodale, Hays, 12
DODGE CITY—Daniel Rojas, 11; Mervedi Nkongolo, 12; Erubiel Duron, 11
LIBERAL—Darius Archuleta, 11; Kevin Guerrero, 11
GREAT BEND—Francisco Garcia, 12; Simon Hernandez, 12
HAYS—Diego Muller, 9; Blake Stieben, 11
GARDEN CITY—Leo Hernandez, 9; David Hernandez, 9
PLAYER OF YEAR—Alan Lopez, Dodge City
COACH OF YEAR—Saul Hernandez, Dodge City (7-1)