Archive for Saturday, August 25, 2007

Second-half surge pushes LHS past Bonner Springs

Lions net four goals in final 40 minutes for season-opening win

August 25, 2007

— The thunderstorm that loomed in the distance and the two lightning delays that interrupted the junior varsity game left the Lansing High varsity boys soccer team feeling uneasy as it waited on the team bus in the parking lot at Bonner Springs High School on Friday evening.

"We were about to cry because we thought the game was going to be canceled," senior Ethan Alexander said. "We wanted to play one game before Mill Valley because from what I hear from the other guys, they're really, really good."

Yes, LHS wanted to get a game under its belt before playing the defending Kaw Valley League champions, but the Lions also wanted to use the game to iron out some wrinkles. After all, they are replacing almost their entire starting lineup this season, and that includes the goalkeeping position that is being filled by Alexander, a transfer from Louisiana.

The rain ultimately held off and the lightning cleared up. By the end of the night, Lansing claimed a 4-0 victory over Bonner Springs and came away feeling confident about almost all facets of the game.

"A lot of the people that are new stepped up," Stevenson said. "Chris Rathjen, a freshman, he's stepping in, he scored a goal and was powerful all over the field. Clayton Hall, a returning starter : everything was good from him. Everyone was working hard, and that's really what we've got to do. It's a matter of who wants it out there."

No newcomer made a greater impact than Alexander. He proved to be a worthy successor to two-time All-State goalkeeper Alex Burton by turning in a shutout and nine saves. Alexander's finest moment came in the 21st minute when he dove to his right and punched a sure-goal just over the crossbar.

After a shaky first half where the defense struggled to handle Bonner's speedy forwards, Lansing showed poise on the defensive end and didn't allow the Braves to have any uncontested looks at the goal.

"I've got a feel for my team even more now that I've played with all of them," Alexander said after his first game at LHS. "I really like them, and I really like having Drew (Reynolds) on my defense."

The defense and the midfield looked much more fluid in the second half. They controlled the tempo and served as the starting point for numerous full-field attacks that resulted in shots and goals.

The Lansing forwards also were impressive during the second half. All four goals came after halftime, and all were scored by different players.

"We said at halftime that we needed to follow up shots, and that really worked for us the second half," Hall said. "We needed to finish and not just watch the ball roll in the box."

Lansing opened the scoring in the 49th minute when senior Nick Stevenson lofted a freekick into the box. Bonner Springs goalkeeper Ethan Isaacs leaped for the ball, but junior Robin Beemer put a head on it first and knocked it in for a 1-0 lead.

Both teams exchanged shots during the next 23 minutes before the Lions began to cushion their lead. A shot by senior Ben Hancock in the 72nd minute deflected off of Isaacs and skipped toward the endline. Stevenson tracked it down and one-touched it into the net for a 2-0 advantage.

Rathjen scored three minutes later to extend the lead again, and Hall slipped a freekick past Isaacs with four minutes left for the final margin of victory.

With the Bonner Springs warm-up out of the way, Lansing now turns its focus to a 6 p.m. Thursday showdown at Mill Valley. The Jaguars defeated the Tonganoxie Chieftains, 4-0, on Friday in their season-opener.

JV PLAYS TO A DRAW

The Lansing High junior varsity opened its season with a 0-0 tie Friday afternoon at Bonner Springs.

The Lions created minimal scoring opportunities, but the best one came with just over four minutes left in the game when freshman Brian Bircher stole the ball and fed a pass to sophomore Jason Swisher on the left wing. Swisher made a 35-yard run and unleashed a shot that sailed four feet above the crossbar.

About 30 seconds later the game was called for lightning with 3:51 remaining.

Freshman Josh Wepking recorded the shutout in goal, and he received strong defensive support from sophomore Jason Wahaus.

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