Coach endures mixed emotions in loss
They stood together, as if they represented the same side.
In fact, had it not been for the knee-high orange socks and the glowing smile on two of the three faces, one might have thought they were members of the same team. And in some ways they were. But not on that night.
No, just minutes before Bonner Springs soccer players Ed Samek and Michael Billie had helped their Braves defeat Ken Couch's Basehor-Linwood Bobcats.
Just minutes before, the two players, along with a handful of others in orange and black, had competed against the guy they grew up playing for.
"In our league, everyone knows that Mill Valley is the team to beat," Couch said. "But I want to beat Bonner first and Mill Valley second -- just because I know so many of these kids and it's a blast to play against them. It's a weird feeling; it's just wild."
But as much as the two sides get along after the game and away from the field, during the game the friendships are tossed out the window.
While Couch paces the sideline encouraging his players, working the officials and willing his team to victory, those who played for him in the past simply see him as another opponent.
And Monday night, for the second time this season, Couch came up short.
The two teams battled for soccer supremacy on the thick, damp field at Basehor-Linwood High School. With each team securing a goal early in the first half, the team's appeared to be destined for a halftime tie.
But with just under 20 minutes to play in the first, Bonner Springs' Jon Baxter buried a ball in the back of the net for what appeared to be a 2-1 BSHS lead.
However, after a convincing protest from Basehor defender Nick Box, the goal was disallowed. The referee ruled that Baxter's contact with Box before the goal was scored was illegal. The two teams entered the half knotted up at 1-1.
"I thought Basehor beat us in the first half," Braves coach Jimmy Vogel said. "They wanted it more, and we talked about that at halftime."
In the second half, it was clear his team had listened.
Although the Braves managed just one goal, they controlled play most of the half. Several Bonner Springs attacks went down as just misses, and the Bobcats battled to keep the ball out of the net most of the second half.
"I was happy with our play tonight," Couch said. "I'll use this for the future. I think if we just could've fed the ball up a little deeper -- about three feet farther -- we could've done some things."
The second half featured a lot of physical play but few whistles, as both sides battled for possession and position. However, the most costly no-call of the game came with just less than 15 minutes to play. On a rush that began in the BSHS defensive zone, freshman Alex Perica slipped past the BLHS defenders and buried the ball in the back of the net.
Couch protested the play, claiming that Perica was offsides. The officials said otherwise and the goal stood.
The goal was Perica's second of the game, and it came as a result of an increase in effort on his behalf.
"I hadn't played too well the last week or so," Perica said. "And the pressure was on. I just tried to step up and make something positive happen. It's always best to be the first to score and the last to score."
The win moved the Braves to 7-4 on the season and may have snapped them out of a recent slump.
"We still made a few mental errors," Vogel said. "But at least the passion was back and we were playing hard."
The game also featured the return of goalkeeper Ed Samek, who had missed a few contests with a knee injury. Wearing a heavy brace on his right leg, Samek played well in net for the Braves.
Also playing well in net was the Bobcats' Ryan Sirridge. Sirridge made his first start in goal for the Bobcats, and he drew heavy praise from his coach for his performance.
"Ryan played a great game," Couch said. "For being his first varsity start, I thought he did very well."
Austin Knipp scored the Bobcats' lone goal of the game.
Both teams will be in action Thursday, Oct. 7, as they wind down the season and look ahead to regionals. The Braves will travel to Mill Valley for a highly anticipated rematch with the Jaguars, and the Bobcats will take on Lansing.