A chilly, October night couldn't cool down Garden City Buffaloes soccer team Tuesday night in the opening round of the Class 6A regionals.
The Buffs, entering as the No. 7 seed, cruised past the visiting Topeka Trojans, 3-0, Tuesday night at Buffalo Stadium.
Three different Buffaloes were added to the score sheet as the Buffs (12-5) blanked the Trojans, who finish their season at 8-8, while out shooting them 11-4.
“I think they played one of the best games of the season,” head coach Joaquin Padilla said of his team’s first round playoff appearance. “They scored three goals, I think this is the third or fourth time that we’ve scored over one or two this season. It was a great win for the kids, I think this win will help with their confidence heading into the next playoff game.”
It was actually the fourth time the Buffs scored more than two goals, but it hadn’t happened since Sept. 25 in a 3-1 win over Great Bend. Now, the Buffs will travel to Manhattan for a 6 p.m. match on Thursday in the regional final. The winner will advance to the Class 6A state tournament.
Manhattan, the overall No. 2 seed in the region, dusted Hutchinson, 9-0, on Tuesday to advance to Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Buffs’ attack was not quite as explosive, but it pressured the Topeka defense from the first kick, as the passing game found opening lanes to push into the Topeka back third.
But the opening flurry of pressure did not result in a shot on goal, much less a breakthrough tally, before the Trojans were able to slow the tempo. When the Trojans did have the ball, however, the Buffalo held most of the Topeka possession at the midfield level, denying any through passes into the attacking zone.
“Defensively, pretty solid,” Padilla said. [Topeka] didn't have that many shots on goal. I thought they did very well today, as far as mistakes. We didn't have very many. Overall, the best game the kids have had all year.”
The Buffs caught a break in the 25th minute, when a badly placed pass from the Trojan keeper to his defense allowed junior Alonso Vera to steal the ball from the Topeka defender and beat the keeper on a slow rolling kick into the lower left side of the net.
The 25th-minute goal was the first shot on goal for the Buffs in the first half. It came at an opportune time.
The goal seemed to invigorate the Buffalo midfield, as they re-found the rhythm of the passing game to get the tempo and possession back from the Trojans. The rest of the first half was played on the Topeka side of the pitch.
Three more opportunities were missed by Garden City, however — one of which was a controversial non-call inside of the penalty box with two minutes left in the second half, which forced the Buffaloes to take the 1-0 lead into halftime.
In the first minute of the second half, the Buffs got another break as Trojan senior Gregorio Leonardo was given an immediate red card, from what was later explained to be for foul language on the field.
That forced Topeka to play a man down for the rest of the game. As expected with that advantage, Garden City controlled the ball and converted on its opportunities.
The Buffs made it 2-0 in the 53rd minute on beautiful midfied pass from senior captain Salvador Bustos to junior Hussein Ismail who was streaking past the Topeka backline, and Ismail beat the keeper 1-on-1.
To seal it, Bustos added one of his own to the score sheet three minutes after his assist, giving the Buffaloes a 3-0 lead.
A second red card was given to a Trojan player shortly after, meaning any chance of a Topeka rally was eliminated.
“We have to build from this game, and I think we can surprise some teams,” Padilla said. “We didn't know too much about this team (Topeka) either, and we don't know too much of what Manhattan has either. No matter how they play, I think we can adjust.”