There was no panic in the McPherson High School soccer team as they went into halftime down 1-0. Even with everything on the line — a regional championship, a berth in the state tournament, bragging rights against a rival — the Bullpups still managed to keep their calm facing elimination.
And when the Pups did manage to score 20 seconds into the second half, insurance goals were quickly on their way.
Three McPherson goals within the first 10 minutes of the second half propelled the Pups to a 3-1 win over Buhler Thursday night at McPherson Stadium.
The wind played a major role for both teams. It was a night where the temperature hovered in the 40s and the wind was blowing in the 30s. All four goals were scored going with the wind, which gave McPherson a major advantage in the second half.
“We wanted to play with the wind in the second half, because whether you’re up a goal or down a goal, having that wind in the second half in a postseason game is really beneficial,” McPherson head coach Chris Adrian said. “I loved the bounce back that this team showed today. They played with spirit; it was night and day from Tuesday’s performance.”
Buhler defeated McPherson for the AVCTL Championship, 2-1, back on Oct. 10. Adrian said he’d much rather have the regional championship than the league championship.
“When I first started as a coach, I put a lot of weight into regular season games,” Adrian said. “Then you get into postseason and your guys are maybe prepared for a different experience. I would take today over any of those regular season games.”
McPherson nearly grabbed an early lead four minutes into the game when sophomore Britton Haigh collided with Buhler goalkeeper Collin Severud, jarring the ball lose and into the goal. After initially ruling a goal for McPherson, the referees decided there was interference and took the goal off the board.
Going against the wind, McPherson held a 5-2 shots advantage in the first half. However, Buhler made its shots count, including a well-placed pass from Matthew Voth to Cody Ely, who placed a header in the corner of the net for the game’s first goal with 11:27 remaining in the half. McPherson goalkeeper Nathan Lloyd had no chance at it.
Despite earning two direct kicks from reasonable distances, McPherson went into halftime trailing 1-0.
If there was any doubt at halftime from the McPherson faithful, Haigh quickly erased it. Twenty second into the second half, Darrius Armstrong delivered a pass to Haigh, who finished with the equalizer to give the home crowd something to cheer about. Four minutes later, Haigh scored on a header to make it 2-1.
The third goal came three minutes later and was the dagger for Buhler. A breathtaking corner kick, aided by a gusting wind, from Samie Jaime curved its way into the corner of the goal, all but sealing the game in favor of McPherson.
The Bullpups played stout defense and controlled the ball well the remainder of the game en route to their first regional championship since 2014.
“The intensity these guys came out with in the second half. . . those were the best eight minutes of soccer I’ve seen a McPherson team play,” Adrian said.
McPherson held an 11-2 advantage in shots on goal. Severud made eight saves while Lloyd made one.
The Bullpups are now 13-5-0 and will await their first-round state opponent. Buhler’s season comes to an end with a 10-6-2 record and as league champions.
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