BY JIM MISUNAS
Opposing soccer teams always defend Great Bend’s all-time leading scorer Dani Franco.
Speedster Chiny Sanchez has supplied Great Bend with a second offensive threat. All of Sanchez’s skills were on display in a two-goal performance that sparked the Panthers past Newton 4-1 in Monday’s 5A regional opener on Memorial Stadium’s turf.
Great Bend coach Jesus Loera believes Sanchez’s speed is a threat in an open field. Newton’s offense pushed upfield, which left the Railroaders vulnerable to a counter-attack in perfect 70-degree weather and calm wind.
“Chiny has dangerous speed and that showed today,” Loera said. “We knew if we played like balls through on the ground, we’d have some scoring opportunities.
Once the Panthers adjusted their passing game to keep the ball low, everything fell into place.
“When we controlled the game at our feet, we’ve got an advantage. We’ve got speed all over the field,” Loera said. “Once we found our offensive rhythm, we liked our possession game.”
Panther Armando Leyva fed a perfect pass to Sanchez in an open field that he headed past Newton goalie Joel Franz at the 36:44 mark of the first half.
Newton converted a corner kick by Michael Valesquez that Milo Jones deflected and Carsen Ebert booted past Panther goalie Alberto Leyya for a 1-1 tie with 12:23 left in the first half.
The Panthers quickly responded with two goals.
Francisco Garcia directed a perfect free ball to Sanchez, who sprinted past the defense for his second goal at the 7:42 mark of the first half.
Sanchez’s hard blast off was deflected by Newton goalie, but the Panthers were awarded a penalty kick for a hand ball. Francisco Garcia converted for a 3-1 lead with 2:39 left in the half.
Humberto Alonzo added an insurance goal at the 37:20 mark of the second half on a nifty centering pass by Jaime Arellanes, who played his typical solid game.
Great Bend defenders Angel Razo, tough-minded Junior Franco and Luis Zamarripa keyed the backline defense.
“This is the type of soccer we wanted to play in mid-season,” Loera said. “Better late than never. We’ve got it going now. We’ll take it forward and go from there. We were in a good place to put on a good performance today.”
The Panthers (7-10) earned a second shot at Salina Central (13-3) in Tuesday’s 6 p.m. regional semifinal at Salina Stadium. The Mustangs won the season opener 6-3, but the Panthers have shown vast improvement in the rugged Western Athletic Conference.
Great Bend vs. Newton