The road to Spring Hill has officially begun for the McPherson High School boys soccer team.
The Bullpups stunned fifth-seed Emporia High School 2-1 in the Class 5A regional finals on Thursday evening.
Emporia came into the Thursday's matchup as the No. 1 scoring team in the state, but the Bullpups' defense accepted the challenge, shutting out the Spartans 2-0 in the first half, which is unusual for the Spartans.
The Bullpups were on the attack early on and made sure they stayed in front. McPherson outshot Emporia 5-0. Rhett Edmonson put the Bullpups on the board first after 25 scoreless minutes. At the five-minute mark, Drew Schrader connected with Samy Jaime for the Bullpups' second goal of the night. McPherson's coach Chris Adrian couldn't ask for a better first-half performance from his Bullpups against a team that averages 6.5 goals a night led by the duo of Wilber Landaverde and Elijah Williams.
"No. 7 ( Landaverde) is so good," Adrian said. "Even when we tried to put someone on him this whole time, he was still beating us. No 9 (Williams) was also phenomenal. They have some incredible talent, and we knew we had to be smarter than them, and we had to play tougher. I thought the second half was just all about grinding it out and finding a way. It wasn't pretty by any means."
In the first 10 minutes of the second half, Emporia was on the verge of a stellar comeback after Williams finally put points on the board. After not able to make any shooting attempts in the first half, the Spartans made up for in the second half with four shots-on-goal.
"The first half I thought we played really well," Adrian said. "That was well-executed, but we got a little tired in the second half, and it was all about will."
The Bullpup defense held on to dear life while killing the clock and Emporia was playing catch-up ball. Both teams had more chances to put more points on the board but fell short. The time kept winding down after the five-minute mark. McPherson covered its grounds, making it difficult for Emporia to tie the game. Nathan Lloyd also made two crucial saves in the heed of the moment.
"We were playing the ball where we want it to in those last five minutes, and we were keeping the ball out of dangerous areas of the field," Adrian said.
McPherson (15-2-1) advances to its 19th quarterfinals in program history. The Bullpups hold the No. 4 seed in the Class 5A state tournament and travel to Goddard to take on top-seed Goddard-Eisenhower High School (17-0-1) next Tuesday at 6 p.m. Eisenhower defeated Great Bend High School in its regional finals in overtime, 2-1.
Contact Peter Holland Jr. by email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter@Petes_Picks_