By Brady Bauman
JUNCTION CITY—It was 30 minutes after the game was over and Manhattan boys soccer head coach Frank Alonso still couldn’t believe how well his team played.
The Indians shocked top-seeded Olathe East 2-0 inside Al Simpler Stadium Friday evening and will play for the 6A state title Saturday at 2 p.m.
Before falling to Manhattan (16-3-1), the Hawks were an undefeated 19-0 and ranked as the 11th best high school boys soccer team in the nation.
“Holy smokes,” Alonso said after MHS players trickled triumphantly out of the locker room. “It’s just crazy. I’m flabbergasted… I’m astonished.
“(Olathe East) was 19-0 and 11th in the nation, and we put it to them.”
The Indians pressed the Hawks early and the aggression out of the gate seemed to stun Olathe East. Manhattan senior forward Eric Gray landed the first punch when he nailed a strike to the corner of the goal—assisted by fellow senior Jonathan Turnley— at the 16th minute to give the Indians a quick 1-0 lead. Still in the first period, Turnley scored on a free kick with 3:27 left before the break.
Although the Hawks spent more time on the Manhattan end of the field in the second half, the Indians defense held true and Olathe East couldn’t find a clean look at the goal.
As the match got closer to the end and the Manhattan fan section felt the upset coming to fruition, the Hawks were called for two yellow cards in the final five minutes.
Alonso said setting the tone and pace early was in the game-plan.
“That’s what we talked about,” he said. “To be honest with you—and no disrespect to (Olathe East)—but they probably looked to us (before the match) and just said, ‘Well, they’re Manhattan.’
“I think they were surprised how good we were.”
Alonso said Gray turned it on and intimidated.
“(The Hawks) were terrified of him… they couldn’t handle him,” Alonso said. “He’s an upper-level player and when an upper-level player decides to play (he can). He has all the tools, and he tore them up.
“They were scared of him… it wasn’t a good match-up for them, but it was a team effort… you can’t really single anyone out.”
Overall, MHS outshot the Hawks 11-4 and senior goalkeeper Alex Richt had three saves.