Braves are two steps from history
Bonner Springs soccer hopes to deliver school its first title in 25 years
It’s been 25 years since Bonner Springs High School has hung a state championship banner in athletics, but the Braves are on the verge of doing it again.
Thanks to a 6-2 victory against Maur Hill in the Class 4-1A boys soccer state quarterfinals Tuesday night at David Jaynes Stadium, the Braves now are in position to claim the school’s first state title since the volleyball and boys basketball teams won championships in 1985.
“It’s like a once-in-a-lifetime event. It means the world to us,” said Spencer Bush, a BSHS junior who scored twice in the victory. “We really need this to happen. It’d be good for our school, our community … not just us. We need to make it happen for our school. We haven’t done it in 25 years; why can’t it be Saturday?”
A championship could be won Saturday. That’s still a possibility thanks to Tuesday’s quarterfinal victory.
Bonner Springs came out on the attack against Maur Hill and dominated the first half. The Braves had the majority of possession time and peppered the goal with shots. Bush put the Braves on the board in the 15th minute when he knocked the ball away from a Maur Hill defender at the top of the 18-yard box, tracked it down and one-touched a shot past the goalkeeper for a 1-0 lead.
The Braves continued to unleash shots — most of them off-target — for the rest of the half. Finally they broke through again in the 36th minute when Spencer Frank intercepted a pass and unleashed a shot from 25 yards out that tucked just inside the right post. That sent the Braves into halftime with a 2-0 lead.
BSHS continued to be the aggressor early in the second half as it strung together nice passing combinations, but the Braves repeatedly blasted shots high and wide of the target from close range. Ultimately, Maur Hill closed the gap when Esteban Rivas headed home a goal in the 57th minute to make the score 2-1. It was only Maur Hill’s second shot of the game.
The score didn’t stay close long. Five minutes after Maur Hill got on the board, Bonner Springs scored again. Conner Harrington led the attack and played a nice ball to Shawn Jones near the right corner. Jones cut back and sent a cross into the box to a charging Bush who blasted it past the goalkeeper and into the center of the net for a 3-1 lead.
The Braves tacked on two more goals in the 67th minute. First, Jones got tripped up by the goalkeeper on a breakaway, fell down, recognized he had an open net and tapped it home while laying on the ground. Just 33 seconds later, the lead grew to 5-1. This time Jones collected an assist when he got the ball on the left end line and sent a short cross to Austin Epp who headed it home.
Maur Hill scored in the 73rd minute to pull within 5-2, but it was too little too late. The Braves tacked on a final goal in the 77th minute when Jones stole the ball and tapped a short pass to his right that connected with Jose Lopez for an easy goal.
After the final seconds ticked off the clock, the BSHS student section stormed the field to celebrate with the Braves.
Despite the lopsided victory, BSHS coach Mike Moulin said his team needs to make plenty of improvement before Friday’s state semifinal match if it wants to keep its state title hopes alive. In particular, Moulin said he wants to see more focus when it comes to finishing on scoring opportunities.
“Although they did make good decisions with the ball, a lot of them seemed off,” Moulin said. “I don’t know how many shots we missed in the first half. I told (assistant coach) Jimmy (Vogel) on the sidelines ‘it’s a good thing we’re having our bad game tonight,’ because we can’t afford to do that again.”
Of course, the Braves’ “bad game” still included six goals being scored by a combined five different players. That diversity on offense is something Moulin admitted could make his team very dangerous in its final games.”
“When you’ve got (a situation) where pretty much your front six are all weapons, it helps out a lot,” he said.
Bonner Springs scored most of its goals thanks to a collection of crafty passing combinations that stretched the defense and set up open looks at the goal. Epp said that was an indication of the sort of unselfish play that has helped the Braves win so many games.
“Everybody on the team does their part,” Epp said. “When somebody doesn’t try to do everything and we’re all just working together, that’s when we’re on.”
The Braves (15-1-3) will continue their quest for a state championship when they face Rose Hill (12-4-3) at 5 p.m. Friday in the state semifinals at Hummer Sports Park in Topeka. Wichita Trinity (15-2-2) and defending state champion St. James Academy (11-6-2) will play at 7 p.m. in the other semifinal.
The third-place match will take place at noon Saturday and the championship game will follow at 2 p.m. If all goes well for the Braves, they’ll be playing in the late game Saturday and hoisting a first-place trophy at the end of the day.
“It’s been special to this point,” Moulin said of the season, “but it would be great for them to do that. This is what they want, and hopefully they can stay focused and stay determined and make it happen.”