Free State High’s Preston Newsome streaked toward the goal mouth, whipped his head into Sam Passig’s parabolic pass and …
Baseball isn’t the only game of inches.
Newsome’s header with less than two minutes remaining caromed to the left of the net, enabling Olathe South to post a 2-1 soccer victory Thursday night.
“Sam gave me a fantastic ball,” Newsome said. “I wasn’t quite sure of where I was, and the ball was probably a foot or two wide … real close.”
Close counts only in horseshoes, so the Firebirds had to settle for a bittersweet defeat in dank, drizzly conditions at the Free State field.
Both Olathe South, the defending Class 6A state champion, and Free State, enjoying one of the best falls in school history, went in with nine victories apiece.
In the end, the Falcons (10-3) proved they haven’t dropped off much from last year, while the Firebirds (9-3) showed they can be competitive with an elite team.
“They’re really good, the defending state champs,” Free State coach Jason Pendleton said. “To have a chance to tie against them is a good position to be in.”
Olathe South led, 1-0, at the break, then added another goal about 10 minutes into the second half — the scoreboard was on the fritz so times aren’t precise — and the Falcons were coasting with that 2-0 lead until the Firebirds caught fire.
With about eight minutes remaining, Newsome dribbled down the middle, spotted a clear lane to his left, fed Diego Gonzalez on the run, and Gonzalez finished with a left-footed smoker into the net.
“When we got that goal, it picked up our confidence,” Newsome said.
During those final eight minutes, the Firebirds were on the constant offensive, but couldn’t muster another goal and force an overtime.
“Preston missed by maybe two feet,” Pendleton said, “and we had another one across the face that nobody hit.”
Next for the Firebirds is another Sunflower League power, unbeaten Olathe East.
That game will be Tuesday night, also at Free State’s facility.
“Both South and East are athletic and fast,” Pendleton said. “Having them back-to-back at the minimum has to help us prepare for a fast pace of play, I hope.”
Free State goalkeeper Jackson McClure suffered a bruised knee midway through the second half and was replaced by Elliott Johnson. McClure left the field on crutches, so he may not be available for the O-East match.