Red card gives Augusta Orioles spark to advance to Class 4A-1A semifinals
AUGUSTA, Kansas — Two years ago on this field, almost to the day, Topeka Hayden put a stop to the Augusta Orioles making a run at a state championship.
Fast forward to 2021, times have changed and outcomes have changed.
For the top-seeded Augusta Orioles, the 4-0 win over Hayden represents more than just their first ever appearance in the state semifinals. It represents the hard work and the culture this team has developed under head coach Dusty Buell.
"It's the first time this program has dreamed of going to the state semifinals," Buell said.
That may be coach speak but the actions on the field said more as the Orioles showed why they were the top seed in the west bracket when they smelled blood in the quarterfinal against Hayden.
The game turned on a dime right before halftime when Hayden's Daxton Ham picked up a straight red card for using foul language and that's all Augusta needed.
"We knew they didn't score a lot," senior Kaden Kearney said. "That was really a spark for us with them down to 10 players."
Augusta wasted little time coming out of a scoreless first half and making Hayden pay in the second half. Kearney caught a header off the corner of senior Payton Ball for the go-ahead goal.
That would be all they would need.
"We've played together so much," Kearney said. "We communicate and know where each other is going to be."
Augusta (17-2) capitalized on the man down advantage in the 61st minute when Cody Meckel sent a header ricocheting off the crossbar, then the ground before finally crossing the line for the 2-0 lead.
The Orioles tacked on two more for the icing on the cake, including a second for Kearney.
For Kearney and the rest of the senior class, the legacy they've built and will leave on the school is unmatched. Two quarterfinals, a state semifinals appearance and a league championship. Since their freshman year, when many of these players were playing significant minutes right into high school, they've put up a 41-19 mark after Tuesday's win.
"We've changed this program in the past three years, just gotten better and better," Kearney said. "People see where the program is, it's not just come out here we're going to lose. "We're one of those top programs now and I hope after us it stays that way forever."
The foundation that Buell has built is there and you can see it within roster with players like Meckel getting big time minutes. Cooper Buell doesn't get enough credit for his play and then there's Peyton Carselowey in net, who's only a sophomore.
Carselowey, who left Thursday's game win over Winfield after needing to have a tooth put in place. He had a collision and played through the pain and was able to get the Orioles to halftime before leaving to have his tooth back in. Five days later, he's back on the pitch, helping the Orioles with the clean sheet.
"I equated to boxing, getting hit in the chin and getting kind of woozy and I think that's what it was," Buell said. "It knocked out his front bottom tooth and we had to pull that out. He was in the game about three minutes later."
Carselowey played all 80 minutes in the win on Tuesday, not looking like a man who had just had a tooth reinserted.
"For a lesser man, it ould have made him a little less fearless," Buell said. "But man, that kid's tough."
For Augusta, they now travel to Topeka's Hummer Park where they will play Bishop Miege (11-8), the soccer powerhouse. Miege has won the last five state championships in Class 4A-1A. Miege beat Kansas City Christian, the top seed on the East side, 8-0 on Tuesday night.
"We're gonna be ready for it," Buell said. "We we want this we want this challenge. We know if we're gonna be the best we got to go through the best. So whoever it is, we will be ready."