Sometimes a sports season comes crashing down around a team and its fans. When that happens, the mood afterward is pretty somber. Just about like the mood at District Stadium Oct. 23.
That's because the Andover soccer team had been out-muscled in a 2-1 loss to Salina South. The Trojans, who ended their season 11-4-2, had beaten the Cougars, who won just five games this year, five days earlier.
Before the game, AHS coach Chris Lemons explained to the team that the playoffs are a completely different animal. You can't take anyone for granted, least of all someone you recently had beaten.
"Going into warm-ups, I could tell the boys weren't ready," Lemons said. "I don't know if it was my fault for not preparing and motivating them more for this game. I just knew we weren't mentally ready."
South took the game to the Trojans early. The Cougars kept Andover backed up in its defensive third and scored in the fifth minute.
"That kind of shocked us," Lemons said. "After that we actually tried to start playing. But trying to start playing halfway through the first half and being down a goal is tough because you're chasing the game."
South would drop up to six or seven players in front of the keeper, making it difficult for Andover to get the ball into position. Consequently, the Trojans seemed content many times to shoot from long distance instead of working for a good shot.
A penalty kick by Tommy Fiszel in the 35th minute tied the game and gave Trojan fans something to cheer about. Their excitement was short-lived as South scored what turned out to be the game winner about three minutes later.
A free kick from 37 yards out found its way to Trenton Keller, South's most dangerous attacker. Keller was not marked and headed it in from the left side of the goal.
The Trojans had a chance in the last 30 seconds of the half to tie the game, but Tyler Johnston's shot bounced off the crossbar.
Although Andover seemed to control possession better in the second half, the Trojans were met still by a swarm of defenders whenever they got the ball into the attacking third. They went into hurry-up mode late and got perhaps some of their best looks of the night. Twice within the last few minutes it looked as if Andover had scored, only to realize the frustration of missing by the slimmest of margins.
A cross from Johnston to Jacob Loflin right in front of the net was on the money. Loflin's shot appeared to be in, but South's keeper gobbled it up. Another dead-on shot hit the post, so close to going in that many thought it had.
Page 2 of 2 - It was that kind of a night for the Trojans.
"We pushed forward, got shots, got chances but just couldn't capitalize on any of them," Lemons said. "It just so happens that not capitalizing and not playing for the first 15 minutes of the game killed us. That's what finished our season early.
"Even though it was a negative end to the season I took some positives away, and we're going to build on it for next year."