Firebirds notch another shutout

Free State soccer blanks SM Northwest

Free State’s Tony Libeer, center, gets in position for a header against a Shawnee Mission Northwest player. The Firebirds won, 1-0, Tuesday night at Free State High.

Another game, another goose egg for Free State High’s boys soccer team.

The Firebirds made Shawnee Mission Northwest shutout victim No. 6 with a 1-0 win on Tuesday night at the Free State soccer complex.

Adding to the cachet was the fact SM Northwest is the defending Sunflower League champion.

“They’ve lost some good players,” Free State coach Jason Pendleton said of the Cougars, “but anytime you can get a victory over Shawnee Mission Northwest it’s a good win for us.”

SM Northwest is 5-5 this season, but 4-2 in Sunflower League games. Free State, 7-1 overall, is 4-1 in the league.

The Firebirds have used two goalkeepers in each of their eight outings — senior Jackson McClure in the first half and junior Elliott Johnson in the second.

“Coming into the season,” Pendleton said, “they were pretty equal. Each has his own strengths so I’ve used them both.”

However, McClure made his initial second-half appearance Tuesday, replacing Johnson late when the Cougars began bombarding shots and earning corner kicks.

“They threw everything at us in the last 10 minutes,” Pendleton said.

For his part, McClure credited defensemen Alan Hornbaker, Sam Passig, Tony Libeer and Kendall Goodden, saying “They’re the ones making the saves.”

The Firebirds weathered 16 SM Northwest shots on goal while taking nine themselves. The difference, of course, was that one of Free State’s went in.

Junior midfielder Preston Newsome produced the decisive goal about 14 minutes in, scoring from about three yards outside the goal mouth.

“They tried to clear it and I was in the right place at the right time,” Newsome said. “(The ball) nicked off the post and fell behind the goalie.”

Newsome’s carom shot held up for the next 66 minutes, thanks to the Firebirds’ rock-solid, shutdown defense.

“To be honest, I don’t care about the shutouts,” Pendleton said. “I just want to win.”

Tuesday marked the Firebirds’ debut on their new artificial-surface field. Their first four home games had to be moved to the nearby football field because of a lighting problem at the soccer facility.

Not that the debut wasn’t without a glitch. The scoreboard froze with about 151?2 minutes remaining and time had to be kept on the field.

Next action for the Firebirds will be Thursday at Shawnee Mission West.