The boys’ soccer match between Washburn Rural and Manhattan High had a little bit of everything Thursday night at Bishop Stadium.
Except a winner and a loser.
For the second consecutive year, the large crowd went home to a 3-3 tie after two overtime periods couldn’t distinguish a winner. But for soccer fans, this game had plenty of drama. Between physical play, six total goals and 20 minutes of sudden-death overtime, the large crowd on hand got quite a show from two of the top Centennial League teams.
“What can you say?” Manhattan head coach Frank Alonso said. “It’s a great advertisement for high school soccer. Just a terrific game.”
Manhattan (5-1-1) took the lead three times, only to see Rural fire right back and tie things up at every turn.
Eric Gray gave the Indians a 3-2 lead in the 56th minute on a rebound shot after rifling a ball right into Rural goalkeeper Walker Farrar, who couldn’t get a handle on the ball and was out of position for Gray’s second attempt.
But Rural — ranked No. 8 nationally by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America — caught a break. The Junior Blues capitalized on a defensive mix up in the 65th minute to get Caleb Cowsert an open shot from 25 yards out that found the back of the net to tie the game at 3-3.
At that point, both teams had chances, but ran out of time, forcing overtime.
“I’ll be honest with you, I’m so proud of the boys,” Alonso said. “They are a fantastic team, they came out in the first half and put it to us — 1-1 was a flattering score at halftime — they kind of dominated us. We go by possession and we didn’t do a very good job, but from the second half on, we were just unbelievable. To get the lead on them three times and not finish is just heartbreaking, but that’s why they’re champions.”
Kirkland Lambert staked the Indians to a 1-0 lead with a goal in the 23rd minute on an odd play that resulted in a late signal from officials. Manhattan lofted the ball into the 18-yard box and Lambert’s shot was cleared by a defender, but after a few seconds was instead declared a goal by the officials, as it crossed the line.
But Rural answered right back, scoring in the 26th minute on a goal by Joah Hickel that found the left side of the net.
After halftime, Manhattan scored first, getting a goal by Brandon Religa on a cross from Eric Gray in the second minute.
Not to be outdone, Rural’s Chance Lucas scored just five minutes later to tie the game at 2-2.
Alonso said the team brought intensity he hasn’t seen from them in recent matches.
“We’ve been winning and not playing very well,” Alonso said. “We talked about intensity, we talked about not giving up an inch, and that’s what it was about. That was a great game of soccer.”
Manhattan outshot Rural 10-9, and goalkeeper Alex Richt had five saves.
“The intensity was so high and our quality really started to come on,” Alonso said. “They did have some good chances, and our goalie made some very important saves, but as the game went on, I felt like we kept coming on stronger and stronger. I’m so proud of the boys.”
Playing in a 4-5-1 formation because of what Rural likes to do, the team had to make adjustments during the first half. After Manhattan’s first goal, Alonso said the tide started to change.
“Those numbers in the middle, the tide changed from them dominating the midfield to us, and we kept the same formation,” Alonso said. “The reason we got more attacking-wise, we figured out where we needed to play the ball in the second half and we knew where we could be dangerous.”
At the end of the day, nobody is particularly satisfied in a tie, though the team was upbeat knowing they went toe-to-toe with the best team in the state.
“We came in knowing they were a tough team and it’s always been close,” forward Kirkland Lambert said. “Obviously we’re not pleased with a tie, but at the end of the day, it’s better than a loss. It always hurts when you know you have the shot and are ahead most of the game, it’s a heartbreaker. But we fought hard, and that’s what really matters.”
Defender Tyler Daveline agreed.
“It’s tough to end in a tie, because you know you were so close, we got a goal and gave it back,” he said. “But I know we tried our hardest.”
Daveline said Thursday’s match was the wildest game he’d ever been a part of.
“It was completely deja vu,” he said. “It was exactly like last year in my mind. It was the craziest game that I’ve ever played in — just a great experience. These are the games you dream of. There were big plays after big plays. The fans were great and supported us really well. It was a great time.”
Alonso was appreciative of the large crowd as well.
“The boys played with great intensity, skill, courage and leadership,” he said. “And the crowd was phenomenal. They gave us some amazing support tonight.”