Lansing boys' soccer team beats Gardner-Edgerton 4-0 on Thursday to win their northeast regional bracket; Lions advance to 5A state quarterfinals after winning seventh consecutive game dating back to regular season and are now 11-5-1 overall this year.
For the first time since 2005, the Lansing boys’ soccer team can call themselves the regional champions.
With a 4-0 runaway victory over Gardner-Edgerton on Thursday night, the Lions took home the trophy as winners of their northeast regional bracket and will now advance to the 5A state quarterfinals next week.
“We’re one of the top eight teams in the state, is what this says...” Lansing head coach Randy Brown said. “That’s great. We think that we’re a pretty good team, and I think the guys played very well tonight.”
Sophomore Chris Rathjen scored twice for Lansing, and the Lions also received one goal apiece from senior Clayton Hall and sophomore Nick Fodness. Just as big of a story was the Lions’ defense, who shut out their opponents for the third game in a row.
Sophomore Josh Wepking saved all 11 shots that the Trailblazers were able to get on goal, but it also took a superior effort by the Lansing defensemen to keep their shutout streak intact.
“Jason Wahaus (was) running down balls. Joe Goll was playing a heck of a game over there. They were trying to work on him...” Brown said. “Hawkins (Hall) of course is a consistent player. We were just playing solid defense, and then whenever the ball did get through, Josh (was) solid as a rock back there in the goal, being able to pull that ball in and stymie any further attack that they had.”
Wepking said that he was fired up for Thursday’s game because he didn’t want the seniors to lose what would probably be their final home game or end their careers before they had all won a regional championship.
“I just couldn’t let my seniors down or my team down...” Wepking said. “I fed off of them and off of their energy. They were pumped, and it was great.”
Wepking helped keep the game scoreless in the first half by making a diving save on a header that came off of a Gardner-Edgerton corner kick.
The Lions controlled most of the scoring opportunities early on, though. Junior Gage Thackston had a pair a free kicks saved by Trailblazers’ goalkeeper Thomas Speers, Clayton Hall just missed a shot wide to the left, and junior Philip Nelson had four total shots before the Lions finally broke through with 14 minutes and 35 seconds remaining before halftime.
It happened when Clayton Hall flew in from the left side to head a free kick by Nelson and pounded it into the far corner of the net. Brown thought that goal put Gardner-Edgerton into a more hurried attack afterwards.
“It was fortunate for us that we got a quick goal up front, because I think they started playing long ball — the other team did — and they just got out of their game plan,” Brown said.
With 4:23 left in the first half, Lansing scored again when another free kick by Nelson was deflected by Fodness and went straight to the feet of Rathjen, who slid it along the grass into the far left corner. Fodness was awarded the assist on the play.
Lansing finished the first half with 10 total shots compared to only five for Gardner-Edgerton and carried their 2-0 lead deep into the second half, despite an aggressive offensive attack from the Trailblazers late in the game.
Wepking nailed down the shut-out with several strong plays, including a save in a one-on-one situation against Gardner-Edgerton’s TJ Murphy. On another occasion, he was able to win a race to the ball near the right post and not only keep it out of the net, but knock it out of bounds off the Trailblazer attacker, Derek Haenisch.
Wepking gave credit for the shutout to the play of his defensemen.
“They’re playing amazing,” Wepking said. “They’ve played amazing throughout the season, but we’ve stepped it up to a whole new level.”
Gardner-Edgerton finished the game with 12 total shots. The Lions finished with 17 total shots, 13 of them on goal. They finally added to their lead with 2:11 left in the game, when Thackston earned an assist by sending a pass to Rathjen, who received it on the run and put it past Speers into the left corner.
“I just cut the defender and then hit it far post again,” Rathjen said.
With 20 seconds left in the game, freshman Jake McCurry got an assist when he knocked the ball past Speers, allowing Fodness to gain control and shoot. The ball just crept over the goal line before the Trailblazer defensemen we able to clear it.
“The goalkeeper was out,” Fodness said. “Jake got the ball and the goalkeeper went to get it. I was just waiting to see if he’d miss it, and I finished. I was lucky that it went through like three guys, but I still finished it.”
Lansing has now won seven games in a row as they await the re-seeding of the eight teams still alive in the 5A playoffs. Brown said they will probably be on the road in the quarterfinal round, with either St. Thomas Aquinas or Shawnee Heights being their likely opponent. Shawnee Heights beat Lansing 3-2 in Lansing’s last trip to the quarterfinals in 2005.
Brown said that Thursday night’s game was an example of how his team usually steps up against tougher competition, and so he is confident that they will play well as the playoffs continue.
“We’re going to step up,” Brown said. “We’re going to play hard. The guys are ready and they’re psyched. They know they can do it. They have to give their best game, and they will I’m sure.”