Bruised, battered and banged-up from playing three matches in three days, the last thing Lee’s Summit North needed Wednesday night was an extra 10 minutes or more of soccer.
But that’s what the Broncos faced playing 80 scoreless minutes against Park Hill South.
For a good portion of regulartion, the Broncos seemed a step slow and unable to find any energy, but Brennon Larsen’s 88th-minute free kick delivered a victorious jolt during a 1-0 win against the Panthers.
“The boys were struggling,” North coach Ryan Kelley said. “You could see it in their faces, in their body language and stuff.”
Larsen certainly felt the fatigue, especially during overtime.
Exhausted as he was, Larsen summoned the strength to blast a free kick into the net for a golden-goal victory at Bronco Stadium.
Larsen, a senior midfielder, took the shot when North (10-4) was awarded a free kick 7 yards outside the penalty box. His arced his kick around Park Hill South’s wall, past the reach of goalie Mark Allred and just inside the near post.
“When I stepped up, I was dead,” Larsen said. “I didn’t know if I was going to shoot it or not. And then I just thought it’s golden goal, let’s see what happens and I shot it, and I’m glad I did.”
Larsen also scored the game-winning goal Monday, when North edged Blue Springs 3-2. He had another goal disallowed Tuesday, when the Broncos lost a hard-fought 1-0 battle against Raymore-Peculiar.
North, which already was dealing with illnesses and a couple of suspensions after those matches, lost two more to injuries, so Kelley wasn’t surprised to see some periods of lifelessness from his team.
“It was hard,” Kelley said. “It’s a lot to ask of them playing three matches in a row — and they were three highly competitive, intense matches. The boys are tired, but they did a great job tonight of not letting that be an excuse.”
North could muster only three shots in the first half, but the Broncos’ defense managed to keep Park Hill South (6-5-1) to only three decent looks at the goal.
Dasean Ransburg had the Broncos’ best scoring opportunity when he fired a shot just right of the goal in the 27th minute.
“We really wanted to try to possess the ball a lot more tonight, but we just struggled to connect passes,” Kelley said. “Some of that goes to the fatigue. We’re not able to get to the ball, not able to hit it sharp enough because we were wearing down.”
Depleted as the bench was, Kelley still found some valuable minutes from reserves Kale Soukup, Tyler Dailey and Liam Frank, who provided fresh legs and gave some the regulars a breather in the second half.
The Broncos found a second wind and turned up the offensive pressure during the final 20 minutes, but they still couldn’t find the net.
Park Hill South almost did in the 77th minute, when midfielder Alex Hammond collected a rebound and ricocheted a shot off the crossbar. The Panthers had another shot sail just high of the goal two minutes later.
“The second half I thought we played real well,” Kelley said. “We played with a lot more energy and a lot more enthusiasm and that really helped carry us through that overtime.”
North will get some time to recuperate from that three-day grind. The Broncos don’t play again until Oct. 2 at Blue Springs South, so Kelley has some team-bonding activities planned during their 12-day hiatus — none of which involves kicking a soccer ball.
“We’re looking forward to having a little fun,” Kelley said. “After these three days, their legs are going to need a little bit of a break.”