The third time was the charm for Manhattan High boys’ soccer Tuesday night, as it took down Wichita Heights, 2-0, in the opening round of the Class 6A regionals at Bishop Stadium.
The Indians (11-5-1) played the Falcons twice at the start the 2021 season, tying 1-1 in the season-opener before falling 5-2 a week later. Both games were played in Wichita.
But Tuesday’s iteration played out differently.
“Technically, we’re the younger team, so we were just trying to match their intensity and physicality,” MHS head coach Mike Sanchez said.
“They’re a good team. They’re better than what their record shows.”
One might think that the Indians would be discouraged facing a team they had failed to beat on two separate occasions earlier this season, but Sanchez said Manhattan’s focus was on the task at hand.
“It was win or go home,” Sanchez said. “If you lose, it’s over. I was just trying to get them to realize that you’ve got to come out and play, because if you don’t, you won’t be able to play another day.”
Manhattan’s first goal started with a nickname.
Neither team had scored through the match’s first 25 minutes. But Manhattan junior forward Bepeh Amama threaded a pass to fellow junior forward Avery Adams, who chipped the ball over the Wichita Heights’ (7-7-3) goalkeeper’s head and into the back of the goal, giving Manhattan a 1-0 advantage with 12:55 to play in the half.
“We were giving Bepeh a hard time because he labeled himself as ‘The Creator’ one day at practice,” Sanchez said. “(Amama) played in a nice ball to Avery and (Adams) got it done. It was great.”
Manhattan starting junior goalkeeper Lance Scudder and the Manhattan defense held on for the final minutes of the half, including recording key two saves, one at seven-minute mark and another with a minute and a half to play.
Scudder went to the sideline during the second half. Sophomore Simon Pratt came in and inherited the pressure of the shutout, something his Scudder knew his teammate could handle.
“I’ve known (Pratt) since we were kids,” Scudder said. “We know each other pretty well and we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses. If one of us gets injured or comes out, we trust each other to come in and keep things the same, and we proved that today with a clean sheet in both halves.”
Pratt did not disappoint, recording three critical saves throughout the second half, two of which came before the Indians scored their second goal.
“Keeping a clean sheet is a tough thing to do, and (Heights) has good players up top,” Sanchez said. “(Junior forward Isreal Anima) and (senior midfielder Zaid Sabaii) are dangerous, and our defense did a good job to keep them in check and our goalkeepers got a couple nice saves. I think they hit the ball off the post twice.”
The Indians got their insurance goal with 4:24 to play on a score from senior forward Marco Zambrano, who cashed in on a ball that had rebounded off the Heights’ goalkeeper after senior forward Grant Snowden’s goal attempt.
The Indians faced Wichita North (15-1-1) in the regional championship at 4 p.m. Thursday, with the winner advancing to the Class 6A state tournament.
Head to themercury.com for coverage of Thursday’s regional title match.