It might not have started out well for the Free State High boys soccer team Tuesday, but it ended well.
The Firebirds shut out Sunflower League opponent Shawnee Mission West, 2-0, and moved to 9-3-1 on the season and 5-3 in the league.
It was the first time in five years the Firebirds have beaten the Vikings.
Free State struggled on both ends of the field during the first half. After controlling the game early in the half and getting more than a dozen shots on goal, the Firebirds turned stagnant with about 20 minutes left in the first half.
Shawnee Mission West controlled the time of possession late in the first half as Free State did not move the ball into its offensive third for the final 10 minutes of the half.
"The first half was bad," Free State coach Jason Pendleton said. "We didn't play well at all, and we are lucky we got out of there without getting scored on."
The Firebirds almost didn't. With about 10 minutes left in the half, Shawnee Mission West was inches away from getting the ball across the goal line when defender David Turvey cleared the ball off the line.
"That was probably the biggest play of the game because if that would have gone in, we would have gone into the half 1-0 instead of tied at zero," Pendleton said.
At halftime, Pendleton said he challenged his team to step up its play and take advantage of
a tired Shawnee Mission West team. The Vikings played Monday night and had an overtime game Friday night.
The Firebirds responded by playing more energized after the second-half kickoff. Pendleton said his team possessed the ball more effectively, made better passes and played tougher defense.
It was also key that the Firebirds got some offensive momentum early in the second half on a goal by Greg Glatz at the 29:57 mark. After a Shawnee Mission West goal kick that fell right at his feet, Glatz said he put a quick move on the defender and had a good look at the goal.
His shot was low to the ground, but enough to get to the back of the net and give the Firebirds a 1-0 lead.
"After we got that first goal we felt like we had some momentum," Glatz said.
The Firebirds continued their inspired play on offense and defense. Free State's defenders didn't allow Shawnee Mission West to get a shot on goal from the 25-minute mark to the 14:16 mark.
Free State's offense added another score to seal the game with 15:45 left to play. Forward Alex Clayton took a pass from Drew Schelar down the sideline and made a turn toward the middle, beating his defender. He dribbled into the goal box, brought the goalkeeper out and had a clean look at the net from the left side.
"It was a good turn and I just used my speed and got the goalie on the ground and then I cut him," Clayton said.
Pendleton said he was pleased with the way his team turned their play around in the second half.
"The mental focus just wasn't there in the first half," Pendleton said. "But we came out tough in the second half and were able to get some scores. This is a big deal for us because we haven't beaten these guys in five years."