BY JIM MISUNAS
Great Bend goalie Daniel Cervantes and defender Junior Franco saved shot-after-shot against the No. 3-ranked Class 6A Dodge City Red Demons to keep Thursday’s soccer final respectable.
The Red Demons powered past the No. 7 ranked Class 5A Panthers 4-1 in Thursday’s battle for first place in the Western Athletic Conference.
The defending WAC champions (8-0, 4-0 WAC) yielded its first league goal on a penalty kick converted by Erick Martinez.
Dodge City converted second-half goals by Mario Martinez, Antonio De La Torre and Joshua DonJuan after a 1-0 halftime lead in 97-degree heat and 20 mph wind.
“It was really tough,” Cervantes said. “They were communicating really good against our defense. They gave me a lot of trouble. They kept coming in behind our defense.”
The Red Demons used their speed to move the ball upfield and expertly used crossing passes to keep the Panthers’ defense on the run.
Martinez delivered the second goal at the 37:14 mark of the second half. Greg Hernandez fed a perfect pass to De La Torre at the 33:07 mark. A perfect centering pass by Jose Ubanda set up DonJuan’s goal.
Cervantes made several athletic saves. Franco consistently kicked the ball out of trouble time-after-time to keep the Panthers within range.
“Franco is a special player who played a great game at center back,” said Great Bend coach Jesus Loera. “For a freshman to play at that high a level was outstanding. He stepped up to the challenge. He’s been doing that all season.”
Loera said Dodge City’s speed and ball skills were a challenge to handle.
“Dodge City is a strong team that is well organized and well coached,” Loera said. “Everything they did, we expected. We knew they liked to play vertical and turn-and-go. It tested our team to keep up with that speed.”
A senior-junior Dodge City team held a physical advantage against a Great Bend team featuring eight ninth-graders.
“I’m pleased with our boys the way we contained them,” Loera said.
“We knew it’d be a tough challenge. There is only so much you do do against a quality team like that. These kids kept playing and working hard.”
The Panthers (5-3, 2-2 WAC) attacked Dodge City’s defense more effectively heading into a 20 mph south wind. Brian Galindo and Martinez executed a give-and-go exchange for a quality attempt.
“Going into the wind, we played to our strength and possessed the ball more by playing the ball to our feet,” Loera said.
DEMONS 4, PANTHERS 1
DC (8-0, 4-0) 1 3 — 4
GB (5-3, 2-2) 0 1 —1
DC—Cesar Alvarez, assist Joshua DonJuan, 24:48; DC—Mario Martinez, 37:14; DC—Antonio De La Torre, assist Greg Hernandez, 33:07; GB—Erick Martinez, 20:37; DC—DonJuan, assist Jose Ubanda.
Western Athletic Conference
Dodge City 4-0 8-0
Great Bend 2-2 5-3
Liberal 2-1 4-3
Garden City 1-2 5-2
Hays High 0-4 4-4
Dodge City 4, Great Bend 1
Liberal 2, Hays-TMP 0
Hays High 7, Buhler 2