By BRETT MARSHALL
One thing was for sure when the unbeaten and No. 9-ranked (Kansas Soccer Coaches Association) Dodge City Red Demons arrived on Thursday to face the Garden City Buffaloes in a Western Athletic Conference showdown.
The Buffs, the defending WAC champs, were not going to yield their title quietly.
And did they ever make the case that they will have something to say about the crown in 2013 after David Fuentes knocked in a goal with his left foot from just beyond the right front of the goal box with 4:07 remaining in overtime to provide the Buffs with a dramatic 3-2 win over their arch-rival.
"All I saw was that I touched it with my right foot, switched back over and it's something I practice all the time," Fuentes said just minutes after the stirring victory at Buffalo Stadium. "With all the misses we had, we deserved a goal. You've got to take your hat off to Dodge City. They're a very good team."
Fuentes was on the right wing and he took a chip pass from Eric Barragan, then faked right and cut back to his left, and then fired with his left foot. It got by two Dodge defenders and slipped into the far left side of the net just past a diving Red Demon goalkeeper Pablo Landa, who was spectacular in the game (10 saves).
"I thought I lost it (ball) and I saw the defender and just made the pass to David," Barragan said. "I tried to center and he just made a great play. It was a golden goal. I just stayed still and watched it go in. Dodge fought a good fight."
Indeed, the Red Demons had entered the key WAC match-up with a spotless 10-0 overall mark and had gone 4-0 in their first half league schedule. That included a 2-0 shutout of the Buffs just nine days earlier.
"Just like last year, we wanted to be undefeated in WAC at home, and just couldn't lose on our turf," Fuentes said. "I think it was the crowd and we played with more intensity and we were passing more. You never want to lose to your rivals."
After the regulation 80-minutes on the pitch finished at 2-2, the teams regrouped, and as they had for much of the game, the Buffs were more the aggressor.
It certainly helped that Dodge City played a man short for the final 66 minutes. That came in the 20th minute when Dodge's Isaiah De La Torre was red-carded and had to depart the game.
Dodge fought valiantly with the Buffs owning the man-advantage.
The Buffs, though, finished with 20 shots compared to 10 for the Demons. Garden goalkeeper Isreal Reyes was solid, making two saves of the 10 shots by Dodge City.
It was Barragan who put the Buffs up, and it came before the crowd could settle into their seats.
Only 40 seconds in, Barragan took a long cross from Gilberto Tovar, slipped back to his left and booted it in with his left foot.
"Getting the first goal means a lot," Fuentes said of Barragan's lightning-quick score. "A lot of times who scores first usually wins the game. It just worked out."
Dodge tied the score in the 21st minue when Mario Lopez scored on a penalty kick following a tripping penalty on the Buffs.
It stayed that way until the 31st minute when Sebastian Kyaw took a center pass from Esteban Neave and drilled it in for the Buffs. The Red Demons showed their own resiliency less than three minutes later, when Brandon Chavez bicycle-kicked to score and tie the game once again in the 34th minute.
While neither team managed a goal in the second 40 minutes, there was plenty of action. The Buffs had 12 shots in that span while Dodge managed just five. Both teams had long shots that hit the crossbar and bounced away.
The victory was just what the roller-coaster Buffs needed as they head into the last half of their season. They are 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the WAC, a half game behind the Demons. They travel to Liberal on Tuesday for another critical league encounter, and then host Great Bend on Thursday. The Buffs own narrow wins over both teams thus far.
"We had to have this to have a chance to win the WAC," said GCHS coach Joaquin Padilla. "We need to win the next two and we can control our own destiny. I thought we got most of the shots, but we did that in the first game, too. David's certainly got the ability to make that kind of kick. Left or right, he has the leg and the skill for that shot."
And there was no down-playing the importance of beating Dodge.
"Anytime you beat Dodge City it's big for us," Padilla said. "It's the big rivalry. It's been going on since when? You just don't want to lose to Dodge City."
On this night, it was Fuentes' kick that made sure that didn't happen.
Dodge City 2 0 0 -- 2
Garden City 2 0 1 -- 3
GC--Barragan, Tovar assist, 1st minute.
DC--M. Lopez, penalty kick, 21st minute.
GC--Kyaw, Neave assist, 31st minute.
DC--Chavez, unassisted, 34th minute.
GC--Fuentes, Barragan assist, 86th minute.
Shots--Dodge City 10, Garden City 20. Saves--Dodge City (Landa 10), Garden City (Reyes 2). Penalties--Dodge City (De La Torre, red; L. Lopez, yellow; Coach Charles Johnston); Garden City (Dat Hoang, yellow; David Amaro, yellow).