Blazers squeak past Braves in 5A soccer regional playoffs
Gardner On a gloomy night in Gardner, the Bonner Springs boys soccer team collected a gloomy result.
The Braves battled tough throughout against the Trailblazers, but in the end, the game came down to one play. Gardner made it and claimed a 1-0 victory in the first round of the Class 5A regional playoffs.
With the victory, Gardner (11-5-1) advances to play St. Thomas Aquinas today in the regional finals. Bonner Springs ends its season with a 9-8 record.
Fourteen minutes into the second half with the score knotted at zero, Gardner received a corner kick after a BSHS defender attempted to stop a breakaway and knocked the ball out of bounds. Junior Thomas Speers, who had the wind at his back and had overshot the goal box twice already in the half, kept this attempt low and out of the wind. The plan worked.
Speers unleashed a low, line-drive kick that hugged the end line. BSHS goalkeeper Brett Steuart got tangled up with one of his teammates and fell to the ground as the ball sailed past him to Dylon Cale. Cale settled the ball and slammed a kick into the vacated net for the game’s only goal.
Until that point, the Braves had been living on borrowed time. They had several opportunities to take control of the game early but never capitalized.
“We had four or five opportunities one-on-one with the keeper,” coach Mike Moulin said. “You have to finish those. You put three out of the four away and this game is out of reach and (Gardner’s) heads are hanging. Instead, they scored one on us and our heads are hanging.”
As the first half came to an end, Gardner nearly shocked the Braves. With five seconds remaining, freshman Travis Haenisch stole the ball at midfield and streaked down the field. With 1.2 seconds on the clock, he lofted a long shot that drifted over Steuart’s hands and into the back of the net just as the buzzer sounded. The referees huddled and decided that the ball had not crossed into the goal before the buzzer had sounded — a controversial call, but a temporary lifesaver for the Braves.
Despite the call, the damage was done. BSHS came out deflated in the second half and the Trailblazers were pumped.
“You could see the energy level had dropped,” Moulin said. “With our team, we are either on or we are off. We were off tonight, and it was a long night. When we are on, we are unstoppable. We are a young team overall.”
Gardner had its best scoring opportunity of the night only 30 seconds into the second half, but Steuart came away with an amazing save. However, the tone had been set and the Trailblazers went on the attack for the rest of the game.
Seniors Tyler Kelly and Ryan Holcomb played in their last game in a Braves uniform. Seniors Justin Buehler, who was injured, and Roger Smith did not get into the game.
Moulin said his seniors made a major impact on the team this year and would be missed.
“The senior leadership was great … unbelievable leadership,” Moulin said. “They were always the first guys in a running drill in practice. That is what you are looking for in a (senior).”