Chieftains hold potent Panthers attack to 3 goals in playoff loss
Kansas City, Kan. By all accounts, Tonganoxie High soccer has taken a momentous step forward this season.
The days of losing matches by mercy rule after trailing by 10 goals are long gone.
And even though the Chieftains entered their Class 4-3-2-1A regional playoff match with Kansas City Christian on Monday with just four wins, they figured that didn’t matter.
Coach Ken Lott and his assistant, Coach K, told the players the regular season was just a warmup for this moment. Everyone is 0-0 now. Etc.
But all the positive vibes and go-get-em speeches weren’t enough for THS against a team that has won the state championship three of the previous six seasons.
The mighty KCC Panthers defeated the vastly improved Chieftains, 3-0, at Alvey Park, ending Tonganoxie’s season in the process.
The No. 3 seed Panthers looked the part of the heavy favorite, controlling possession throughout the match, and firing at will at THS goalkeeper Mitch DeHoff, who battled admirably throughout the contest.
Yet, after 10, 20, even 30 minutes of play, No. 10 seed Tonganoxie fought off onslaught after onslaught from KCC, before finally relenting somewhat by giving up the match’s first goal in the 37th minute on a perfectly placed header.
The Panthers (9-4-3) attack remained constant and aggressive throughout the playoff match, and KCC tallied two more goals in the second half.
Lott said KCC simply had much better ball control and more team speed than his Tonganoxie (4-12-1) squad.
“If you ask anybody, speed kills, especially in soccer,” Lott said, “and they had the speed and the skills to do a lot better than we did.”
Given those facts, the coach was happy that the Chieftains held their opponent to three scores, which was a far cry from a match a few years back when the Panthers won, 10-0, with 20 minutes remaining on the clock.
THS senior Jamison Bloomer admitted the way KCC possessed the ball caused THS to be more assertive with its comparatively rare scoring chances, but he wasn’t disappointed that it worked out that way.
“We played our game the way we wanted to play,” he said.
Upon finding their bearings, the Chieftains got their first legit scoring opportunity of the night in the 25th minute, but didn’t get a shot on goal. They did better their next time in Panthers territory as Joao Martins stole a pass and crossed it to the middle for Bloomer, but that attempt was headed away by a KCC defender. Finally, in the 31st minute, Martins played a perfect pass up the middle to a sprinting Bloomer, but he couldn’t gather himself to get enough pop on his shot and the KCC keeper picked up the attempt with ease.
Martins had one of the closest misses of the evening for THS in the 53rd minute after Bret Koch stole the ball from a KCC defender. Martins put a booming shot about two feet wide and high of the top left corner, much to the chagrin of the THS fans in attendance.
About seven minutes later, the Tonganoxie defense set up the offense when junior Keaton Schaffer cleared the ball ahead to Tyler Woolworth, who advanced the ball up the sideline and played it into the box for Austin Smith. However, the senior’s shot fired way right as he tried too hard to cut into the deficit.
The Chieftains’ closest and final opportunity came in the final five minutes on a Martins free kick that Woolworth headed off the crossbar.
Lott said the postseason experience should help his underclassmen.
“We have a lot of players who are going to be coming back that are going to benefit from this and we have some JV players who are going to be stepping up,” he said.
Although Bloomer said he would have liked to advance in the playoffs “to show the rest of Tongie that we have changed,” he said he enjoyed his senior season.
“This is my last game — I didn’t want it to be — it was a great game,” he said, “and playing with this team, it was an awesome year.”