Saathoff, Truesdell lift Chieftains into state title match
THS will face Topeka-Hayden at 2 p.m. Saturday
Kansas City, Kan. McPherson had the nearly-perfect record, the high-powered offense and the lopsided season scoring margin. Tonganoxie had the composure, the determination and the veteran leadership.
As the Chieftains proved Friday, when the state tournament arrives, numbers mean absolutely nothing.
Matt Saathoff had a hat trick, Keaton Truesdell recorded 29 saves and THS punched its ticket to the Class 4-1A state title game with a 3-1 semifinal victory against McPherson at Piper High School.
The Chieftains (16-3-1) survived several scoring opportunities by McPherson (17-3) to keep things tied at the break, 1-1. Saathoff, who now has 30 goals this season, got a penalty kick opportunity when he was held in the box with 30:15 left in the second half. The senior co-captain got the ball over the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Dylan Stos to put his squad up for good.
"There is no one else (I'd rather have)," coach Brian Kroll said. "In fact, next year when he goes to college, we're going to fly him in for PKs."
Much like in the first half, McPherson dominated possession for the remainder of the game. The Bullpups, who have averaged nearly five goals per game this season, spent almost the entire match less than 20 yards from the Tonganoxie goal. But the defense stepped up and kept MHS from getting any clean looks, and Truesdell hauled in every ball that came his way in the second half.
The 29 saves were a season-high for Truesdell, who has started in the goal for each of the last four seasons.
"It took everything we had," Truesdell said. "The defense put out all its effort to keep them from getting any really good shots, and we got a couple good breaks."
Saathoff put the game on ice when he drilled another penalty kick with 24 seconds left, and the celebration began.
"My goal was just to put a comfort on things so we had something to fall back on," Saathoff said of his third and final score.
The Chieftains' three goals were the most by any McPherson opponent this season. Entering Friday's match, the Bullpups had allowed just seven goals all season and recorded 14 shutouts en route to a 93-7 scoring differential in 2012.
McPherson struck first on a goal by Connor Schafer with 29:25 left in the first half. Schafer got a look from 25 yards out and fired the ball past a diving Truesdell and into the top left corner of the net.
Saathoff answered less than six minutes later when he got a ball just inside the left post on a free kick, and the score remained tied for the rest of the half.
"It just took concentration and the confidence to (score)," Saathoff said. "That's what kind of drove me. Whether I hit a defender or not, my goal was to put the ball in the back of the net."
THS will return to the Piper field at 2 p.m. Saturday for a shot at its first-ever state title. The Chieftains will square off against Topeka-Hayden (19-1) which reached the championship match with a 2-0 semifinal win against Kansas City Christian.