OLATHE — Third-place games at state are always the most difficult.
Both contestants are emotionally drained after losing in the semifinals the day before. Generally, the consolation winner comes down to which team wants it more.
On Saturday, that was McPherson High.
Darrius Armstrong capped a brilliant Bullpup career with a second-half goal to give the Bullpups a 1-0 victory over Spring Hill to bring home the third-place plaque in the Class 4-1A State Tournament.
MHS finished its year with a 15-5 record in what many thought might be a rebuilding year because of the loss of such a great senior class.
“The third-place game is always a difficult one to play, but I was really proud of the effort and grit the boys showed today,” MHS coach Chris Adrian said. “I’ve said it before, but I'll say it again, this team really loves playing together so this game was more about enjoying the last game with this group than it was about winning some hardware.”
It was a 0-0 game at the half, though the Bullpups dominated.
“We really should have scored a couple goals,” Adrian said. “We came out strong in the second half and got an early goal after a shot by Drew Schrader was rebounded for Darrius Armstrong to tap in. The legs began to get more heavy as the half went on and we started sitting deeper, inviting pressure from Spring Hill.”
But MHS reached down deep and never allowed Spring Hill to score the equalizer.
“Nathan Lloyd made some big saves and our defense held strong and allowed us to get the 1-0 win,” Adrian said. “I couldn't be more proud of this team. They have shown what can be accomplished by a group that comes together and plays hard for the player next to him. I want to thank the seniors for their leadership. They have helped create an amazing culture in the program that we will continue to build on.”
Lloyd turned back 8 shots to pick up his 10th shutout of the year.
The future is bright for MHS, which at times played eight sophomores and a freshman. All in all, it was a year Adrian will treasure.
“I also want to thank our fans who have been out in full force all season and have traveled long distances this postseason to cheer on their ‘Pups,” Adrian said. “My assistant coaches Eric Burghart and Martin Marfo have been so valuable this year and have worked their tails off and sacrificed so much time to get this team where it is. This season will be a season I never forget. It's been a pleasure to coach these young men and I couldn't be more proud of them.”
Miege repeated as state champion with a 3-0 win over Andover Central.