They haven’t lost in 342 days.
Technically it isn’t the longest streak in Kansas, but it is the most impressive. Andover Central is one of two undefeated boys soccer teams in the state, joining KC Washington, after the Jaguars pulled out a 3-2 overtime win over Newton on Thursday.
After trudging through more than 100 minutes against the lowest-seeded team in the Class 5A west district, junior midfielder Jack Benedict reached out on a loose ball in the 6-yard box for the game-winner with 1:26 to go in the second overtime period. But he shouldn’t have even been on the field Thursday.
Coach Steven Huskey said he came into Thursday in hopes of resting some of his more dinged-up starters, including Benedict, who came in nursing a left ankle sprain.
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“He was one of those I was trying to get rest,” Huskey said. “But it turns out I needed him. He scored the game-winner against Andover and the game-winner tonight. I had to have someone tell me because I couldn’t even see it. Sums up the game: A really ugly goal.”
With the win, Andover Central has locked up the No. 1 seed in 5A west. The Jaguars still haven’t clinched the AVCTL II title with a pair of high-caliber games next week in Eisenhower and Maize South, two of the top four teams in district play this year.
So Thursday proved even the bottom-tier teams are going to give the Jaguars their best shot.
“Being undefeated puts a target on your back,” senior goalkeeper Davis Joseph said. “Newton fought until the bitter end. They played the last 15-20 minutes with 10 players, and I think it’s a testament to how hard they were just putting everything out there, everything on the line.”
But Andover Central wasn’t expected to be this good in 2018. The Jaguars reached the Class 4-1A state championship game last year against Bishop Miege, but they had a wealth of seniors, including 2017 All-Metro forward Jackson Lewallen.
No one expected Andover Central to be out of it this season, but even the players said to be undefeated through mid-October is a surprise. With 13 wins and a tie, this year’s group is guaranteed a better regular-season record than last season’s.
“We came into this season thinking we weren’t as powerful as last year, but we were definitely wanting to keep it up,” Benedict said. “Once we got to that 11-win mark, we were like, ‘This is for real. We’ve got it here.’“
The Jaguars aren’t as flawless as their record reflects though. Newton (3-12) kept them out of their style of play all night, pushing players forward and dropping in long balls that gave Andover Central fits defensively.
“Their record is a disguise; they can score,” Huskey said. “They’re a bogey team, and they’ll be a tough pairing in the postseason for sure. We were scattered. We were anxious.”
Newton put everything in doubt for about 100 minutes Thursday: The No. 1 seed, a home winning streak that stretches to 2016 and even their dominance as an undefeated team — something Huskey said has started to weigh on the players.
“It helped to have an easier week where you can play uglier soccer or selfish soccer and get away with it,” Huskey said. “So this will serve as the refresher.”