Rebuilding year? What rebuilding year?
After McPherson High’s boys soccer team was hit hard by graduation after the 2016 season, including first-team All-Staters Andric McGill and Patrick Munsey, a .500 season was probably a realistic 2017 goal.
McGill and Munsey accounted for about 75 percent of the offense and had been program staples since their freshmen seasons.
MHS coach Chris Adrian had to wonder where the scoring was going to come from. Early on, the Bullpups did struggle to light the lamp.
While they were only 4-3 at one point, Adrian had faith that his young team would accelerate the process.
A trio of successive 10-0 wins gave the offense the confidence it needed. The Bullpups, even in their losses, controlled possession much of games. Darrius Armstrong, perhaps overshadowed his first three years by the highly acclaimed McGill and Munsey, became a breakout player and Britton Haigh emerged as a goal-scoring threat.
The defense, led by returning All-Stater Devin Cape, has been a model of consistency, allowing just 13 goals and first-year goalie Nathan Lloyd has nine shutouts.
The Bullpups, who won seven of their last nine games during the regular season, didn’t win the league title due to a bitterly disappointing 2-1 loss to arch-rival Buhler when the Crusaders scored a couple of late goals to extract victory from the jaws of defeat. It was the first time an Adrian-coached team had lost to Buhler and for himself and the team, that loss burned in the pit of their stomaches.
Fortunately, they got the chance to wash the bad taste out of their mouths. It just happened the teams were bracketed together and met on Thursday at McPherson Stadium to determine a qualifier for the Elite Eight.
Buhler had a 1-0 lead at the half, but Adrian liked the position his team was in. It was unfortunate in the first half as it let a couple of golden chances get away, but he knew with a 30 mph. breeze at his team’s back the final 40 minutes, it was only a matter of time.
Haigh scored just 22 seconds into the second half and the fuse was lit. He scored another goal a couple of minutes later and then 3 minutes later, Samie Jaime roped a corner kick around the post for what was an insurmountable 3-1 lead, especially with the way the Bullpups were dominating possession.
Armstrong, Cape, Connor Williams and Noah Scott are the senior starters, but most of the other key components are in their sophomore year and they have grown up right before our eyes.
The Jaime cousins, Samie and Jael, possess tremendous foot skills on the outside flanks. Haigh, Tyler Hoxie and Drew Schrader are tremendous in the middle, while Trenton Stecklein has been a defensive rock, with Lloyd getting better by the week in goal. Rhett Edmonson is yet another sophomore who logs important minutes.
Austin Monore is the most accomplished junior and his return from injury has been a bonus.
Freshman Cody Achilles, who also runs cross country, is a player who will be heard from in the future as he can run all day.
Other seniors are Francisco Alcaraz and Carson Stone, with Luke Brossard is a junior who has seen some minutes.
It’s quite a varied ensemble, but it’s all mixed together to make beautiful music. Now the Bullpups are just one win away from making the Final Four, something nobody probably imagined the first week of the season.