Another game, another shutout for Free State High’s stingy soccer team.
The Firebirds blanked their fourth straight foe with a 1-0 decision over Olathe Northwest on Thursday night at the FSHS football field.
“It’s unrealistic to think we won’t be scored on this season,” senior defender Alan Hornbaker said, “but we want to go as long as we can.”
While its true goalkeepers earn the credit for a shutout and that the Firebirds have two good ones in Jackson McClure and Elliott Johnson, each of whom works a half, it’s not like they operate under a constant fusillade.
In fact, O-Northwest had only five shots on goal all night, and Hornbaker and fellow back-liner Tony Libeer earned most of the credit for that from Firebirds’ coach Jason Pendleton.
“Our back line stepped up big-time,” Pendleton said. “Alan and Tony were ball-hawking fools tonight. They didn’t let anything dangerous get past them. Hats off to the back line.”
Nevertheless, the Ravens were a bit troublesome early, taking four of their five shots on goal during the first 30 minutes.
“They’re the most athletic and physical team we’ve faced so far,” Pendleton said, “and it took us a little while to adjust to them.”
After a scoreless first half, Free State finally posted the only goal it needed with 21:33 remaining on a direct free kick by Daniel Chance from about 17 yards out. Actually, it was the Firebirds’ second goal.
The first one didn’t count.
About four minutes after the break, Free State’s Diego Gonzales had collided with O-Northwest goalie Danny Bush and defender Taylor Lawson less than 10 yards from the goal mouth. All three went down in a heap, as the ball bounced high into the net. However, referee Jim LaPoint disallowed the apparent score, saying he had blown an inadvertent whistle before the ball had crossed the goal mouth.
Of the three players who collided, Lawson was the most seriously injured. The game was delayed 19 minutes as EMT personnel immobilized the senior defenseman, placed him on a gurney and loaded him onto an ambulance. No report on Lawson’s condition was available after the game.
One more disquieting incident occurred with 3:12 showing, although it didn’t involve an injury. Moments after the Firebirds’ Tyler Smith sprawled on the artificial turf in obvious pain, referee LaPoint red-carded Chance, obviously miffed by a non-call, for making an inappropriate remark.
“It’s unfortunate Daniel used an expletive,” Pendleton said. “One of his teammates was whacked to the floor with no foul called, but that doesn’t justify what he said.”
Under state rules, Chance’s ejection means he will be unable to play in the Firebirds’ next game, and that happens to be against crosstown rival Lawrence High next Tuesday.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” Pendleton said. “The referee makes that decision, whether it’s correct or incorrect.”