New coach guides team’s rally
Take your thumb and position your index finger about an inch away.
That's about how far Tonganoxie's soccer team was from a winning season this year.
Under first-year coach Luke Denney, the Chieftains battled to a 7-9-1 record, but eight of those games were decided by one goal. Tonganoxie went 2-4 in 1-0 games and 3-5 in a games decided by a goal.
Tonganoxie fell to 0-2 early in the season with losses to Mill Valley and Bonner Springs. The Chieftains gave Denney his first win as a coach with a 1-0 win against Basehor-Linwood in game three.
An aggressive Chieftain team had 20 shots on goal -- 12 in the second half of that game.
"They never gave up, that's what I'm proud of," Luke Denney said after the PLHS game.
Tonganoxie would be resilient on other occasions. In their next game, the Chieftains defeated arch-rival Lansing, 2-0, for another shutout and evened their record at 2-2.
Perry-Lecompton and Lawrence-Free State then shutout Tonganoxie, 1-0 and 4-0, respectively as the Chieftains dropped to 2-4.
A midseason hot streak, however, revved up the Chieftain squad. During the next six games, Tonganoxie outscored its opponents 18-5. Tonganoxie slipped past Bonner Springs, 1-0, tied Perry-Lecompton at two and then went on a scoring tear. THS registered six goals against Basehor-Linwood and three each against Lansing, Piper and Immaculata.
At 7-4-1, the Chieftains were in a perfect position, but a slew of tough losses left Tonganoxie with a losing record. THS dropped 1-0 games against Mill Valley and De Soto before Kansas City Christian won handily, 4-1. Ottawa then finished out the regular season with a 2-1 victory.
Tonganoxie was assigned a first-round playoff game against Hayden in Topeka. The Wildcats and Chieftains scrapped through two halves and an overtime before Hayden scored a goal late in the second overtime and advanced in the playoffs.
THS tangled with three teams that eventually made their respective state semifinals.
In Class 5A, Mill Valley lost Friday to Liberal, 3-1, in the semifinals before finishing third with a 2-1 win against Blue Valley-Stillwell on Saturday in Goddard. The Jaguars ended their season at 18-3.
In 4-1A on Friday in Manhattan, De Soto defeated Wichita-Trinity, 1-0, while Andover eliminated KC Christian, 2-1. De Soto then fell to Andover, 2-1, on Saturday in the state finals. KC Christian took third with a 3-0 win against Trinity. De Soto finished the season 16-5; KCC was 14-6-1.
Tonganoxie again will work its way toward the playoffs next fall, but the Chieftains will be without a class that has grown up together with a full diet of soccer. Shane Cooper, Travis Andrews, Courtney King, Luke Brown, Nick Volk, Jason Brammer and Derek Sparks all will be lost to graduation next year.
The 2003 season
Mill Valley 2, Tonganoxie 0
Bonner Springs 3, Tonganoxie 1
Tonganoxie 1, Basehor-Linwood 0
Tonganoxie 2, Lansing 0
Perry-Lecompton 1, Tonganoxie 0
Free State 4, Tonganoxie 0
Tonganoxie 1, Bonner Springs 0
Tonganoxie 2, Perry-Lecompton 2
Tonganoxie 6, Basehor-Linwood 1
Tonganoxie 3, Lansing 1
Tonganoxie 3, Piper 1
Tonganoxie 3, Immaculata 2 (OT)
Mill Valley 1, Tonganoxie 0
De Soto 1, Tonganoxie 0
Kansas City Christian 4, Tonganoxie 1
Ottawa 2, Tonganoxie 1
Hayden 1, Tonganoxie 0 (2OT)