Lawrence High goalkeeper Colin Flanders screamed, while defender Rex Hargis put his arms in the air when the final horn sounded. Needless to say, it was a big victory for LHS soccer, defeating Free State High, 2-1, on Thursday.
Flanders and Hargis met their teammates moments later to sprint across the field and shake the hands of their fans who stayed following the Lions' first victory over the Firebirds in their last six meetings.
Flanders and Hargis anchored a defense that was constantly pressured by the Firebirds but allowed only one goal, on a penalty kick in the first half.
"We knew their forwards were going to be one of the strongest parts of their game, and we knew what we had to do, and I am glad that we stepped up," Hargis said.
The Firebirds outshot the Lions, 12-6, but Hargis' strong leg clearing the ball made for few second-chance opportunities.
"They were challenged because we lost the battle in the midfield," LHS coach David Platt said of his defense. "They owned us in the midfield all night long so our defense was under a lot of pressure. Our defense, I thought, was our strong suit, because they weathered all those possessions."
Junior Skyler Workman netted the game-winner 10 minutes into the second half after Free State had trouble clearing the ball. Workman brought down the poor clear and beat Free State goalkeeper Ethan Morton-Gaught on the right side, putting the Lions up 2-1.
LHS then backed off its offensive attack to preserve the lead.
The Lions were unable to get consistent possession of the ball throughout the game, with the Firebirds controlling the pace of the game. Despite the lack of possession, the Lions found a way to get the victory.
"They played a superior game in a lot of fashions," Platt said of the Firebirds. "Soccer is a funny game."
LHS scored first off of a free kick from near midfield. Hargis drilled the ball into the Free State penalty area, and sophomore forward Dar Fornelli flicked the ball with his head past Morton-Gaught on the right side, putting the Lions up, 1-0.
Hargis would add more scoring opportunities on free kicks by drilling the ball into the box and challenging the Free State defense.
"The better team probably won today," Firebirds coach Jason Pendleton said. "We are still trying to sort some things out."
Free State tied the score just seven minutes after Fornelli's goal when junior forward Erik Slan was fouled in the box, giving the Firebirds a penalty kick. Flanders nearly saved the penalty for the Lions, getting his right hand on junior midfielder Andrew Heck's shot, but it trickled into the left side of the goal, tying the score at one.
The victory improved the Lions to 3-1, tripling their win total from last season.
"We like to say that this one is just another game, but we always come out for this one with more intensity," Hargis said. "I think if we can play with this intensity for every game, we will have a good chance of having more outcomes like this."