Memories of Frank Alonso were all over Bishop Stadium during the Manhattan High boys’ soccer team’s season opener Friday.
Alonso, who died from pancreatic cancer in November 2018, had a lasting influence on the program that won’t be forgotten. Michael Sanchez, a mentee and dear friend of Alonso, now is the Indians’ coach. And he started his tenure with a victory, with MHS topping Lawrence 2-0.
But his thoughts centered more on Alonso than the win.
“Frank was a great friend,” Sanchez said. “He was the guy who got me into coaching. About 14 years ago, he reached out to me, so it’s an honor to step in and try to fill his shoes and continue the program and the legacy that he had here at MHS. I think it’s special for these boys. A lot of them we coached since they were 9 or 10 years old.”
His memory also was with Michael Ohler, a junior forward who met Alonso when he first arrived in Manhattan as an eighth grader four years ago.
The Indians honored Alonso with a moment of silence before the game. The Kansas State women’s soccer team’s coaching staff was in attendance along with the Manhattan students, parents and faculty.
The Indians controlled the tempo from the start and went on to play a shutout.
Bouncing around as lineups were announced, MHS junior goalkeeper Caleb Deloach’s energy carried over once the game began. He was the most vocal player on the field all night, and he said he feels that’s his job. Deloach talked to every position, but his intensity always elevated when Lawrence was threatening.
“He never ceases to amaze me,” Ohler said. “I mean, Caleb controls the field from back there. He’s telling the defense where to move, (telling) the centerback to come through and make sure they are open on the sides and make sure the midfield comes back to receive the ball and turn the field. I think he has a humongous impact on how the team plays.”
After Deloach made a save on a corner kick in the opening minutes, the Indians attack broke through.
Ohler scored a goal on a cross from senior midfielder Carter Wiens in the 23rd minute.
Less than a minute and a half later, senior forward Hunter French give the Indians a 2-0 cushion on a ball from junior midfielder Connor Turner.
“I really think that the speed of play helped a lot in that situation,” Ohler said. “I scored the first goal, then Hunter French scored the second. I think the momentum after I scored the first goal got us hyped and (gave us) some momentum to get back in there and score another one.”
The Indians’ defenders performed particularly well, Sanchez said, especially considering they lost four seniors from that unit from last season’s state title runner-up.
“They were after it the whole time and pushed the tempo,” Sanchez said. “That’s what we want to do. We want to dictate play. We don’t want to sit back and let other teams impose their will, because we want to be that team that dictates how we are going to play.”
While the Indians always want to win, playing for Alonso gave them an extra spark. For a lot of the Manhattan players, Alonso was the man that really taught them the game.
“I got to know him really well, so it hit really hard when that happened last year,” Ohler said. “I definitely think it helped us tonight as a bit of motivation.”
MHS 2, Lawrence 0
MHS — Ohler, 17:36 (from Wiens)
MHS — French 16:13 (from Turner)