Halftime had almost arrived when Bishop Miege senior Austen Aiman uncorked a Matt Besler-esque long throw-in to the middle of St. Thomas Aquinas’ box.
By TOD PALMER
The Kansas City Star
None of Aiman’s Stags teammates corralled the ball for a shot on goal, but none of the Saints’ defenders could clear it either.
As it rolled out the back side, Aquinas senior goalkeeper Kyle Gress gave chase, but he lost a foot race with Aidan Kuhls before clattering into the Miege senior midfielder from behind.
Now, Gress was in real trouble, facing a penalty kick in the 38th minute during Kansas Class 5A quarterfinal play Tuesday night at Miege’s Dixon Doll Stadium.
And while Gress guessed correctly on the ensuing try, he still couldn’t stop senior midfielder Brandon Milburn’s crisp drive into the right side of goal for a 1-0 lead with 2:09 left before halftime.
That proved to be more than enough as the Stags advanced to the Class 5A semifinals Friday at Topeka’s Hummer Sports Park with 2-0 win.
“I knew I had a couple steps on him and I saw him coming off his line, but I knew I could beat him to the ball,” Kuhls said. “He was pretty aggressive, but he got me before the ball and I went down.”
The Stags, 16-2-1, weren’t content to sit on that lead either and nearly netted another goal in the 52nd minute off another long throw-in by Aiman, which senior Danny Mohler flicked on to senior Colin Novick for a header off the bar.
But Miege wouldn’t have to wait much longer to pad its lead as senior Conner Emberlin collected a centering pass from Kuhls three minutes later and hammered the nail in Aquinas’ coffin.
“I told the kids that there’s a lot of times in life when, if you want something bad enough, you’ve got to go take it,” Stags coach Joe Huppe said. “We weren’t going to sit back on it.”
Down by two goals, it might as well have been 20 for the Saints, 12-4-3.
“We do not score a lot of goals,” Aquinas coach Craig Ewing said. “We’re really good defensively, but we gave up a goal on that PK. It would have been interesting if we kept it there, but that second goal they got made it too much of a mountain for us to climb.”
Especially against a rock-solid Miege back line with senior Stephen Foster at sweeper flanked by sophomore left back Brandon Ramirez and junior right back Lucas Franco.
“It was a little choppy in the beginning and there was a lot of pressure from them early, but eventually we got in our groove,” Foster said.
To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/todpalmer.