Soccer Roundup: Free State, Baldwin and Eudora advance to 6A, 4A regional championships

photo by: Conner Becker/Journal-World

Free State senior midfielders Cameron Stutler (left, #24) and Jonathan Zheng (right, #10) close in on Manhattan senior midfielder Burke Belanger during Tuesday's 6A regional semifinal match on Oct. 24, 2023, at FSHS.

Battling wet conditions all night long, the No. 7 seed Free State soccer team advanced to the 6A regional boys’ championship with a 3-1 victory over No. 10 seed Manhattan on Tuesday night.

The night didn’t start with smiles though, as the Indians (7-9-1) took an early 1-0 lead when senior Ibrahim Alali snuck a shot past FSHS senior goalkeeper Carter Stevenson with 25 minutes still to play in the first half.

Fighting back, FSHS (10-5-1) tied the match at 1-1 on a goal by junior Jonathan Zheng with 12 minutes till the break. Zheng later set up senior Greyson Heiman with the game-winning goal, punching in his first score of the season to send FSHS up 2-1 just four minutes after Zheng’s score.

“The ball came in off the corner, (Zheng) made a nice touch to me and I had a little bit of space to have some composure and put it in the back of the net,” Heiman said after the win. “It’s massive. I’ve been waiting for that moment for so long and finally seeing it happen feels so good.”

Stevenson, who’d already given up a goal early in the match, walled off three shots by three separate Indians as the rain trailed off heading into the break.

In the second half, MHS continued testing the Firebirds’ defense, now led by Yusef Iskandrani in goal, but the Firebirds didn’t let up.

Free State head coach Joe Waldron credited his back four – led by seniors Utah Hester, Drew Rosenthal, Matthew Seelye and Daryn Harlow – with rising to the occasion. An aggressive MHS attack finished the night with eight total yellow cards.

“We’ve got some depth there and our goalkeeping was outstanding,” Waldron said. “This time of year, you’ve just gotta win and keep playing. I’m proud of our guys against a good Manhattan team, and it feels good to play at home.”

The Firebirds will meet No. 2 seed Topeka-Washburn Rural (16-1-0) in the regional title on Thursday in Topeka, with the game slated to start at 6 p.m.

LHS’ season ends on the road

The first year of the Joe Comparato era came to a close when No. 9 seed Lawrence High fell 3-1 at No. 8 seed Shawnee-Mill Valley in the 6A east regional semifinal on Tuesday night. Scoreless at the break, the Chesty Lions’ defense crumbled in the second half.

Trailing 3-0 late, LHS (8-9-0) got on the board with a goal by freshman Oscar Paden – but it turned out to be the final sign of life.

“They played their hearts out,” Comparato said. “We had our chances – couldn’t finish – but I’m proud of them… We’ve taken some steps forward as a program and our seniors bought in. That’s translated down to our underclassmen for sure.”

Comparato credited senior leaders Ocean Comfort, Colin Sandefur and Alden Parker-Timms with making his first year in charge a memorable one.

“Next year’s seniors are confident about what we have in the tank,” Comparato said. “High school soccer is a weird dynamic. It’s not club soccer. There’s nothing like it and coming in at full speed playing two games a week is very difficult to play.”

Comparato now will turn his attention to the girls’ season this spring.

Baldwin, Eudora advance to 4A regional championship

In 4A action, Baldwin and Eudora will each compete for a 4A east regional championship title on Thursday after picking up wins in the semifinal round on Monday and Tuesday.

The No. 2 seed Bulldogs (14-3-0) ran through No. 15 seed Bishop Seabury (1-15-0) 8-0 on Monday night to advance to the regional title match with Olathe-Heritage Christian (8-9-0) slated for 4 p.m. on Thursday at home.

The No. 5 seed Cardinals (10-6-1) also put up eight unanswered scores against No. 12 seed Fort Scott (5-11-1) in an 8-0 victory on Tuesday at home. Eudora travels to No. 4 seed Shawnee Mission-Bishop Miege HS (13-4-0) with kickoff slated for 6:30 p.m. on Thursday in Roeland Park.


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