As far as Chris Adrian and his McPherson High boys soccer team are concerned, the Buhler Crusaders can enjoy their AVCTL regular-season championship.
The Bullpups would much rather have a trip to state.
In the rematch here Thursday with their arch-rival, the Bullpups qualified for state by exploding in the second half for a 3-1 victory over the Crusaders in the Class 4-1A regional championship game.
Buhler had won the regular-season meeting, scoring a late goal for a 2-1 victory, its only win in the series since Adrian has been the Bullpups’ head coach.
“All day,” Adrian laughed when asked if he’d rather have the state trip than a league title. “That’s one thing that I have learned as a coach is that when I first started, I put a lot of weight in those regular-season games and then you get in postseason and your guys weren’t maybe prepared for different experiences and that’s something I’ve learned. Today I would take this over any of those games that we had in the regular season.”
The motto for the game was “the wind is your friend,” as Buhler took advantage of the howling 30 mph. north wind in the first half to score a goal for a 1-0 lead as Cody Ely deposited a pass from Matthew Voth with 11 minutes remaining.
But as soon as the Bullpups had the gale at their back, they took off.
Just 22 seconds into the half, Britton Haigh scored off a Darrius Armstrong pass to knot the score. It took MHS just 3 more minutes to score as Haigh rang the bell again, after a pass from Devin Cape. Three minutes later, Samie Jaime hooked in a corner kick to complete a three-goal blitz in 8 minutes.
“I love the bounce-back this team showed today,” Adrian said. “Man, they played with spirit, it was night and day from Tuesday’s performance (narrow 1-0 win over Winfield).”
Adrian knew his team had to survive the first half and even though it was behind, it had a 5-2 advantage in shots.
“We knew we wanted to go with the wind in the second half,” he said. “Whether you’re up a goal or down the goal, you want the wind in the second half in a postseason game because it’s very beneficial. The intensity these guys came out with in the second half, that was the best 8 minutes of soccer I’ve seen a McPherson team play.”
What Adrian really liked was how his team kept the hammer down after the first goal. “That was just pure intensity,” he said. “Buhler was just on their heels and we were just all over them those 8 minutes.”
The Bullpups dominated possession and finished with a 12-2 advantage in shots. The Crusaders barely got past midfield with their second-half possessions.
The Bullpups are now 13-5 and pairings for Tuesday’s state quarterfinals will be determined after the final regional championship game is played tonight as Trinity Catholic hosts Hays.