When East’s 2014 soccer season opened back in August, junior Evan Keomany was looking up at the varsity roster fro his spot on the C team.
On Tuesday, for the second time this season, Keomany scored a key goal against Garden City, this time in a 3-2 victory in the Class 6A quarterfinals at East Field. The victory pushes the Blue Aces into the 6A semifinal on Friday.
It will be East’s first appearance in the semifinals. East lost in the regional final two years ago, and lost in the quarterfinals last year.
“To me, it’s a huge deal,” third-year East coach Dylan Gruntzel said. “It’s a big step up for our program to be able to go and play at state.”
Gruntzel heaped praise on his team for its effort, but especially singled out Keomany for his game-winner.
“He started down on the C-team, and worked his way up and has made two big goals against Garden,” Gruntzel said. “It just shows what happens when you work hard and don’t give up.”
It was the second win of the year over the visiting Buffaloes, the first coming a few weeks earlier in the semifinals of the North Cup when Keomany scored the game’s only goal.
“He’s come up big for us, for sure,” Gruntzel said.
East was the aggressor early Tuesday, getting the first goal 2 minutes, 42 seconds in when Daniel Guardado headed the ball in off a rebound that hit Garden City goalkeeper Israel Reyes.
“That set the momentum for the entire game,” Gruntzel said. “They had to chase us.”
That early goal stood up through the first 40 minutes as the Aces took that 1-0 lead into halftime.
When the second half got under way, the Aces once again went to work on the Buffs’ defense, getting a goal from Brayan Martinez-Salinas in the 48th minute, giving them a little breathing room.
“The main thing for us was not to let their key players roam around free,” Gruntzel said of Erik Barragan and David Amaro, who had accounted for 38 goals during the season. “They did get loose a couple of times, but for the most part, we had them stopped.”
Keomany got what eventually proved to be the game-winner when he got a rebound shot off the body of Reyes and from just in front of the goal box, bicycle-kicked the ball into the high left side of the goal, making it 3-0.
With 20 minutes left, the Aces were flying high.
Garden City fought back, getting goals from freshman Alex Morales in the 62nd minute and a goal from Barragan in the 67th minute, when he took a free kick from Luis Carmona, just outside the right portion of the goal box and booted it in, slicing the lead to 3-2.
“Morales streaked down the middle and made a good move when we had the other two (Barragan and Amaro) bottled up then,” Gruntzel said. “Give Garden credit, with them you cannot quit playing. It got a little tense, but I thought our kids did a good job of wasting seconds, which is something we talked about early.”
First half — East, Guardado. Second half — East, Martinez-Salinas; Keomany. GC, Morales; Barragan. Shots—Garden City 13, East 20. Saves—Garden City, Reyes 10; East, Garcia 5.