Quicker to the ball from the beginning, crisper with its passes all night and driven by an intense sense of purpose, the Free State High boys soccer team dominated Tuesday’s city clash, defeating Lawrence High, 5-0, at FSHS.
“I didn’t realize they built a woodshed over here with all this other stuff,” LHS coach Matt Anderson said. “They definitely took us behind it tonight.”
The Firebirds (5-0), who still have yet to be scored on this season, cracked the scoreboard in stylish fashion. A little more than six minutes into the game, senior Tyler Smith launched his signature flip throw-in from the deep corner to the front of the net. As the ball sailed through the box, junior Diego Gonzalez got his head on it and sent it back in front. There waiting was senior Jesse Clayton, who volleyed it out of mid-air and into the LHS net for a 1-0 lead.
“That was the first one that’s led to a goal,” Smith said of his throw-in. “That one was special.”
For all intents and purposes, the game could have ended there. The Firebirds were far more aggressive in the early going, and their dominance in the game’s first 10 minutes set the stage for the rest of the night.
Since play continued, however, Free State decided to show that it should be known as much for its offense as its defense.
The Firebirds tacked on two more first-half goals — one on a sweet pass from Preston Newsome to Gonzalez at 21:46 and the other after an impressive individual effort from sophomore Hunter Pierce at 13:58 — to lead, 3-0, at the half and cruised to an easy victory.
The fact that the game was played without Free State’s best all-around player on the field only made things more impressive. Playing without senior Daniel Chance, who missed Tuesday’s contest because of a suspension stemming from receiving a red card last week, was hardly a problem for the Firebirds, who rose to the challenge of filling in for their multi-talented leader.
“We may not play him on Thursday if the rest of the team continues to play that well without him,” FSHS coach Jason Pendleton said with a hint of sarcasm.
Added Newsome, who inherited some of the Chance’s responsibilities Tuesday: “Daniel’s really hard to replace, and we all knew we needed to work twice as hard with him out of the lineup.”
It showed in all facets.
Other than an early chance that might have made things a bit more interesting — a pass in front from LHS senior Daouda Drame just missed the charging foot of senior Tor Fornelli five minutes in — the second half was little more than 40 minutes of scrimmage. In fact, every Smith throw-in for the duration of the second frame produced the same sounds heard on an amusement park ride, complete with screams from the fans and the thrilling vibe of the unknown as the ball soared through the air.
Newsome (9:54) and Gonzalez (8:25) each added his second goal of the game late in the second half to put the finishing touches on a sound effort.
“I felt like we had a pretty good game plan, and the guys executed it well in the first 20 minutes tonight,” Pendleton said. “That first goal kind of knocked them on their heels, and we didn’t wait around for them to adjust. We’re not five goals better than LHS, but tonight it was kind of the bug-and-the-windshield scenario, where they were the bug and we were the windshield.”
As for the Lions (2-3-1), who played hard throughout the second half despite the lopsided score, it’s not that they stopped fighting as much as they never got started.
“We never got to their level,” Anderson said. “Nobody quit, but there was a high level of frustration.”
The unofficial game statistics had the Lions without a single shot. That was just one of several reasons Anderson said he would encourage his team to scratch Tuesday’s game from their memories completely.
“My concern isn’t anything technical or tactical,” he said. “Mentally, we need to bounce back from this. There’s no time to sit around and pout.”