The Free State High boys soccer team capitalized on one of the oldest lessons in the book Tuesday night: Don't stop playing until the referee blows the whistle.
The Firebirds' extra effort led to a 1-1, double-overtime draw against Shawnee Mission South.
With the Firebirds trailing, 1-0, seldom-used sophomore Preston Newsome found himself in the Raiders' box as one of the few players still moving. Most of the SMS players had stopped, waiting for what they deemed surely would be an offsides call.
But the call never came.
And Newsome, unchallenged, lofted the ball into the net, past the flat-footed Raiders' goalie to tie the game with 22:23 remaining in the second half.
"They were all yelling for the play to be offsides," Newsome said. "So I almost stopped, because I thought it was. But I kept going, got the ball on my feet and put it in the net."
Free State coach Jason Pendleton applauded Newsome for keeping his motor going.
Pendleton reserved greater praise for junior forward Daniel Chance, the Firebird who was behind the defense on the play.
"It was great on our part because we capitalized on an error by them," Pendleton said. "If (Chance) even makes an attempt to play the ball, it's offsides. But he made a heads-up move to run away from it, and that goal completely changed the complexion of the game."
From that point on, the Firebirds became the aggressors, forcing the ball up the field to create scoring chances and holding strong on the back line as the Raiders attempted to do the same.
Free State keeper Ethan Morton-Gaught was especially solid in the tie, making a plethora of diving saves to keep the Firebirds in the game.
"Their two center-mids were outstanding, and that gave them a lot of scoring opportunities," Morton-Gaught said. "Of course, I'd prefer to stand here and watch our team dominate play on the other end, but I didn't mind the action, especially once we tied it up. That goal lifted our spirits."
After playing flat for the first 30 minutes of the game, Free State evened up play in the middle of the contest and dominated the final 20 minutes.
"I felt like the goal worked as a huge boost to our entire team," Newsome said.
Free State's energy was up, and the Firebirds' steps were quicker, but neither trait produced a game-winning goal.
With 4:40 to play in regulation, sophomore forward Diego Gonzalez lofted a soft pass to the box, where Chance headed it toward the net. But SMS goalie Dan Leichty reached high to pull down the save. On the ensuing counter-attack, SMS sophomore Asher Herbet rocked a shot off the crossbar that shook the entire goal but did not go in.
Such chances continued throughout the two overtime sessions, but neither team was able to net the winning goal. Despite the draw, which moved Free State's record to 1-0-1 on the season, Pendleton was encouraged by the outcome.
"To ask so many of our kids to play 100 minutes and play from a goal down, I'm extremely proud of them," he said. "You take the results you earn. Sure, we would've preferred to win, but I feel like we earned the tie. This was a huge result for us."