Not quite ready for prime time is Free State High’s boys soccer team. But the Firebirds are close.
Tuesday night’s 3-2 loss to unbeaten Olathe East came on the heels of Thursday’s 2-1 loss to Olathe South, the other Sunflower League power.
“We played well,” Free State coach Jason Pendleton said of those two outings, “but we didn’t get the results we were looking for.”
Now, Pendleton stressed, it’s time to forget those two squeakers and focus on Thursday night’s home finale against Olathe North.
“Right now, that’s the most important game on our schedule,” Pendleton said. “We need to get back on track. It’s a game that has implications for the Sunflower League and (postseason) seedings.”
In miserable cold, rainy conditions Tuesday night at the Firebirds’ field, Free State stunned O-East early by taking a 1-0 lead after just 11 minutes on a Diego Gonzalez boot from about 20 yards out that curved into the upper-left corner of the net.
O-East recovered about 15 minutes later with its first goal, then added another with 4:47 remaining before halftime on a header off a corner kick.
The Hawks then struck again eight minutes after the rest period for their third goal — a rocket over the head of Free State goalkeeper Elliott Johnson by senior Ben Coyle, his second goal of the night.
Considering O-East hadn’t allowed more than one goal to another team all season, the Firebirds’ chances of forging a tie appeared minimal.
Nevertheless, they didn’t quit.
“We continued to show urgency and passion,” Pendleton said.
Finally, with just 29 ticks remaining, Will Libeer, poised in front of the goal mouth, knocked a ball Neil Newsome had saved off a corner kick into the net.
“Neil did a great job,” Libeer said. “I was just in the right place at the right time.”
Olathe East improved to 13-0-1. The lone blemish on the Hawks’ record is a scoreless tie against Blue Valley North in late September.
Free State stands 9-4 with three games remaining — O-North on Thursday, then trips to Mill Valley on Monday and SM East on Tuesday.
“We can’t be happy about the last two games,” Libeer said. “We’ve got to think ahead and play hard.”