Manhattan One would need a pretty good reason to go shirtless on a cold, windy late-October night.
LHS vs Manhattan in soccer regional
The Lawrence High Lions defeated the Manhattan High Indians in a 2-1 overtime regional game Thursday in Manhattan.
Lawrence High senior Johannes Reiber found some inspiration in 40-degree weather Thursday night at Anneberg Park, flicking a header into the net in the 83rd minute against host Manhattan and shedding his jersey to celebrate the Lions’ 2-1 overtime victory and their second straight regional championship.
Fellow senior Luke Matthews set up Reiber’s golden goal with a cross from the right side. Lawrence (12-5-1) had hoped all night to exploit the MHS defense on such a play. Matthews finally found his teammate in the middle of the field, roughly 15 yards in front of the goal, and Reiber leapt up into the chilled evening air to send the ball past Manhattan’s diving goalkeeper.
“I just saw the ball coming toward me, I took a few steps back and I got up as high as I could and I just put it far post,” Reiber said. “I didn’t know if it was gonna go in at first, but then I saw it slide in and I just started going wild.”
His red No. 12 jersey flew off and the entire LHS team chased its hero to the left corner of the field to celebrate. Afterward, Reiber said it meant a lot to the senior class to finally beat the Indians (12-5-1) after losing their previous four meetings, including one two years ago in the postseason.
The timing of the game-winning goal could not have been better for Lawrence, which advanced to play in the Class 6A state quarterfinals. A cutting northerly wind blew persistently all night long, and the Lions had it at their backs in the second half and overtime. By scoring in the third minute of the extra period, Matthews said, Manhattan never got a chance to put together an offensive push after the end of regulation.
“We knew we had to finish in the first 10 minutes, while we had the wind,” Matthews said, “and we wanted to keep our momentum going.”
Coach Mike Murphy said Lawrence’s plan all along was to play defensively in the first half due to the elements, and Matthews said the Lions were glad they did.
“The first half, we were kind of on our heels, because everything was coming back at us,” Matthews said. “Once we got a goal scored on us in the first half, we knew we had to step it up.”
MHS took a 1-0 lead in the 36th minute on a header by junior forward Eric Gray. He barely placed it over LHS goalkeeper Jeff Mekus as they both went after the ball six yards in front of the goal. The Indians took that lead into halftime, and out-shot the Lions 6-2 in the first 40 minutes.
Once the second half began, Lawrence quickly asserted itself. Five minutes in, the Lions already had taken four shots — twice as many as they had in the previous 40 minutes.
By the 47th minute, LHS found the equalizer. Matthews possessed the ball on the right sideline, near the corner, and sent a cross out front. After an MHS defender deflected the pass, senior Robert Lyan headed it over Indians keeper Kai Reever.
Manhattan found a few chances to regain the lead but couldn’t capitalize. Mekus saved a free kick in the 57th minute by Killian Gorman, and a few minutes later LHS senior defender Bray Kelley held off speedy MHS forward Jacob Stuteit in a race down the right sideline.
Then, in the 75th minute, Gray rocketed a shot off the right post that could have won the game. And with less than two minutes to go, it appeared Jonathan Taylor had given Manhattan the lead on a Joseph Coonrod free kick, but Taylor had been called offside.
Before overtime began, Murphy and the players talked about getting a cross to the 5-foot-6 Reiber, because they knew he had the ups to put away a header.
“He just has such heart,” the coach said. “That’s why he’s a captain.”
Lawrence will play in a state quarterfinal game on Tuesday against an opponent yet to be determined.