With 10 second-half shots, it was bound to happen sooner or later.
Time seemed to be running out for the Manhattan High soccer team as it tried to rally from a 2-1 deficit in the closing minutes at Anneberg Park Thursday night, but the way the Indians dominated the second half, seven minutes would prove to be enough.
Manhattan got two goals in successive minutes to win 3-2 in regulation.
“As many shots as we had, I thought, ‘there we go again, it’s not going to be our day,’” head coach Frank Alonso said. “For once, we pulled it out. If we would have lost that, we might have spun out of control a little bit, and this has stopped that.”
In the 33rd minute, Alonso moved defender Killian Gorman to the midfield in an effort to even the score. Gorman did just that, finding the left side of the net past Topeka High goalkeeper James Lucatero to tie the game and give new life to his team.
“We were not losing again,” Gorman said. “Coach threw me up front, I knew what I had to do, and I did it. And (my teammates) did it too. It was great teamwork. We were the best team the entire half, and it finally showed.”
A minute later, Jacob Stutheit sent the crowd at Anneberg into a frenzy when Eric Gray’s shot went off the hands of the goalie and right to Stutheit, who chipped in the goal to give Manhattan its first lead of the night.
“Every game, coach tells me not to chip it, and I chipped it, but it worked out this time,” Stutheit said. “I don’t think he’s too mad at me this time.”
Getting the win was important after a disappointing loss to Topeka Hayden Tuesday that took them out of the Centennial League title hunt. Alonso knows the team still has plenty to play for, and it showed Thursday.
“We threw away the Centennial League, but the big one is still out there,” Alonso said. “We’re right there in the regional mix.”
Facing a deficit and running out of time, Alonso moved Gorman, a former forward until this year, up in an effort to increase the pressure on the Trojans. The move worked.
“At 2-1, we made a concerted effort as a coaching staff just to let them go,” Alonso said. “We went to a super-aggressive 4-3-3, then we went to a 3-4-3, and the guy that moved up scored.”
Manhattan had plenty of chances before then, however.
The Indians took 18 shots on the night compared to just two from Topeka High, both of which went past freshman goalkeeper Casey Hoffman, who played the first half in place of senior Kai Reever.
“I mixed it up a little bit,” Alonso said. “Just to shake it up a little bit. We have some very good players that don’t play. We shook it up on purpose.”
In the 28th minute of the first half, Eric Gray tied the game at 1-1 with a header off a corner kick from Brandon Religa. But just three minutes later, the Trojans’ Stefano Pezzino answered with a goal to take a 2-1 lead to halftime. The score stayed that way for more than 30 minutes in the second half before Manhattan got things going.
Stutheit insisted his team wasn’t in panic mode trailing by a goal with 10 minutes left.
“I’d call it urgency,” Stutheit said. “I don’t know what was going through my mind, but I wanted to win this game, and we did what we had to do.”
Manhattan hosts the defending champs in 6A, Wichita Northwest, on Tuesday at 6:15 p.m. at Anneberg Park.