In a soccer game that felt one-sided despite a tight score for long stretches, Will Thompson allowed the stress to ease slightly.
As Maize held an advantage in everything on the scoresheet against Eisenhower in a Class 5A regional semifinal Tuesday night, its lead on the scoreboard at Eisenhower was still the slimmest of margins.
That is, until Thompson was able to find his touch. Teammate Justin Khounsombath fed a ball across the box to the right flank, and Thompson took a quick touch before burying a shot to double the Eagles’ lead on the way to a 3-0 victory.
“We had a great season with a ton of shutouts,” senior centerback Jake Pfeifer of his defense that stood up during the tight first half and wound up with another clean sheet. “This game we had a couple of lapses, but we play good together.”
The victory sets up a regional final against Central/South Central top seed Bishop Carroll at 6 p.m. Thursday at Bishop Carroll. Maize and Carroll have met twice this season, playing to a draw once and Carroll winning in a penalty shootout in the other meeting.
Thompson’s score came in the middle of a flurry of action from the Eagles in the first 30 minutes of the game. Khounsombath unleashed a shot that sailed high in the third minute, and Thompson fed a pass to Logan Voran that produced a shot and a save in the 10th.
Maize wound up with four shots and three on goal before Eisenhower managed their first shot of the game, but it was a play that resulted in no shot that would give the Eagles a lead.
Ethan Pfeifer was dragged down in the box in the 24th minute, and the senior was able to convert the penalty kick, driving a low shot to the left to get the Eagles on the board.
“As soon as I got that ball in the box, I knew I was either scoring or they were going to have to take me down,” Pfeifer said. “So once I got the PK, I knew I had to bury it and put us ahead.”
Maize had all the early momentum, but Eisenhower began to build some of its own with counters after the opening 15 minutes. Bryce Runyan picked up the Tigers’ first shot of the night in the 19th minute on a header that was wide, and got their only shot on goal of the opening half on one of the most dangerous chances of the game.
Kwame Parry, who had a number of passes just miss connecting, got behind the defense with a run in the 30th minute. The Maize defense temporarily got the ball off his foot, but the junior found it again, and uncorked a shot from point-blank range that Maize keeper Kaden Jobe saved out of self-defense. The rebound was scooped up by Jobe to keep the shutout.
“I thought the first half, going against the wind, the boys did a great job possessing,” Maize coach Jay Holmes said. “They got into some channels and got an attack going.”
The second half was a bit quieter after Thompson’s insurance goal, but Khounsombath provided some fireworks with a free kick in the 70th, as the senior sent in a rocket from 20 yards out that just cleared the wall and stuck in the back of the net for some more cushion for Maize.
Maize: Ethan Pfeifer (penalty kick), Will Thompson (Justin Khounsombath), Khounsombath (unassisted). Eisenhower: none. Shots: Maize 7-6—13, Eisenhower 4-2—6. Saves: Maize, Nicholas Reiswig 0-0—0, Kaden Jobe 1-1—2, Eisenhower, Trey Greening 4-0—4.