Bobcats and Braves battle to hard-fought draw
After more than 60 minutes of soccer Monday it looked as though Basehor-Linwood High School might get shut out for the first time this year. But a scoring spurt led by Austin Knipp and Ryan Sirridge got the Bobcats on the board and led them to a 2-2 tie against Bonner Springs.
The game started well for BLHS, with the Bobcats keeping most of the possession and Bonner Springs only getting offensive opportunities on counterattacks. The Bobcats couldn't translate their possession into scoring, though, managing just two shots on goal in the first half.
The Braves had trouble with Basehor-Linwood's offsides trap early on, getting called offsides nine times in the first half. But Braves' forward Alex Perica slipped behind the defense in the 28th minute and got a breakaway. Perica was pressured by BLHS goalie Matt Murrell and banged his first shot off the right post. He then collected the rebound and knocked it in to give Bonner the early lead.
The Braves carried their 1-0 lead into halftime, after Basehor-Linwood's offense sputtered for the final 20 minutes of the half. The Bobcats had trouble adjusting to Bonner Springs' turf and the Braves' three-forward formation.
"Bonner plays a 4-3-3, and that's something we're not used to seeing," BLHS coach Kevin Vincent said. "Our offense wasn't up to its usual power and we weren't getting the kind of opportunities we usually get."
The Bobcats had one chance to tie the game just before the half, but Sirridge took an open shot in front of the net and sent it soaring well over the goal and through the football uprights.
"I was really disappointed when I hit that," Sirridge said. "In a close game you always think when you miss that it could have won the game."
Sirridge redeemed himself, and added a little extra in the second half. In the 61st minute he barreled his way through the Braves' defense and was tripped down just outside the box. Knipp took the free kick and nailed it perfectly, bending it over a wall of defenders and into the right side netting. The shot was struck so well that Bonner's goalie didn't even move until it hit the net.
The goal knotted the game at one, and gave the Bobcats a big lift.
"I think we were worn out, and that gave us the mental and physical boost we needed to compete," Vincent said.
Less than two minutes after their first goal, the Bobcats struck again. Knipp received a pass near midfield and drew a crowd of defenders. He rolled the ball over the left side, where Sirridge was streaking through, unmarked. The junior carried it into the box and then beat the keeper to the right side.
The Bobcats had all the momentum at that point, but the Braves wouldn't go down easily. In the 70th minute they beat the offsides trap for another breakaway and tied the game. For most of the game it seemed that getting one-on-one was the only way the Braves' could beat Murrell, who made 13 saves and came off his line several times to boot the ball out of danger.
"He controlled his box and really exerted his presence," Vincent said. "He kept us in the game in certain points."
The game remained tied throughout the rest of regulation and two 10-minute overtimes. The Bobcats did get some opportunities, with Knipp and Sirridge right in the middle of them, but they sailed wide or over the net. Basehor-Linwood looked like the fresher team in the extra periods, thanks in part to a cheering section that was bigger and louder than the Braves' home crowd.
"It was great to have everybody out here cheering," Sirridge said. "It really helped in overtime and it woke us up a little after halftime."
The tie sent BLHS to 8-2-1 and Bonner Springs to 5-4-1 and sets up a big rematch at Basehor on Oct. 19, the last day of the regular season. Before that, though, the Bobcats will face a number of challenges, including this Thursday's home game against Lansing, the defending Kaw Valley League co-champs. The varsity kickoff for is set for 6 p.m.