MAIZE, Kan.—Since Maize South High School joined the Ark Valley Chisholm Trail League’s Division II this season, its matchup with Valley Center on Thursday was a league game. Thanks to the Mavericks’ move to Class 5A last week, it was also a battle of two foes from the same classification.
“There’s no free games here,” said Maize South coach Brian Hutton. “We need to make a presence in 5A soccer since it’s our first year here.”
However, they didn’t quite meet those expectations early on. The boys could have come out stronger in the first half, said Hutton.
“At times, it showed some of our holes and what we need to work on, which is OK,” he said.
Valley Center coach Jeff Burger said he knew his team would have to play nearly mistake-free soccer if it wanted to beat Maize South. The Hornets had a lapse at the beginning of the second half, Burger explained, but they regained their composure and finished well.
He pointed out that Valley Center was coming off a double-overtime game, a 3-2 loss to Salina South, on Tuesday.
“Our lack of depth really starts to affect us a little bit,” said Burger.
Maize South, now 8-3-1 overall, picked up its first goal with 35:32 left in the second half Thursday. Junior Cooper McClure was the first to score.
Fellow junior Conner Moore contributed the next goal near the 32-minute mark.
“We just kind of picked up our anticipation and our intensity,” Hutton said of the second-half surge.
He described Valley Center, now 3-7 on the season, as “kind of a sleeper team.” The squad includes only three boys who play soccer all year, and they all are freshmen. Even so, Burger has noticed improvement in the Hornets this year.
“It’s a credit to their attitudes and their work ethic,” he said.
Burger watched his players get better during Thursday’s showdown, when they made adjustments during the game.
“I’m disappointed that we lost,” Burger said. “But I think we made some strides.”
The Hornets’ senior goalkeeper, John McCune, was a crucial part of Valley Center’s defense. He tallied 11 saves on the 13 shots on goal.
Hutton identified finishing as the area where his team needs work.
“Our offensive third needs to get a lot more efficient,” he said.
Maize South’s other worry was a possible concussion that junior Evan Miller sustained midway through the second half. He appeared unsteady on his feet as he was helped off the field. Hutton said he went to the hospital.