Varsity Soccer

Maize South reaches soccer state title game for the first time in thrilling fashion

The Maize South boys soccer team will play for the 5A title after beating St. James Academy on Friday in Topeka.
The Maize South boys soccer team will play for the 5A title after beating St. James Academy on Friday in Topeka. The Wichita Eagle

They played 110 minutes without a goal.

Maize South finally beat St. James Academy 5-4 in penalty kicks to reach the 2018 Kansas Class 5A boys soccer state championship game for the first time in school history. The Mavericks will play reigning champion Blue Valley Southwest.

Senior Spencer Steinhoff scored the Mavericks’ final penalty as St. James Academy missed it high to end it on the next kick. Coach Rey Ramirez said it was as intense as it could have been.

“Everybody was shaking,” he said. “I’m still shocked. I’m just kind of in awe of everything that just transpired. My head is throbbing. My throat is raspy. I’ts urreal. It’s unbelievable.”

Ramirez said he believed his team had more technical ability on the ball and a bit more speed, but St. James brought size and power that was tough to break down. He said toward the end there was only so much he could say to help inspire his players.

Everyone was exhausted.

“It was a war and a half, that’s for sure,” Ramirez said. “Neither team was better than the other.”

Maize South was also without one of its top players, senior center back Andrew Bliss. Bliss was playing in the Mavericks’ regional championship football game against rival Maize on Friday.

The Mavericks lost 35-0, but during the second quarter, he found out he was going to get to play his last soccer game Saturday for a state championship.

Ramirez had to make some adjustments to his lineup because of Bliss’ omission. Senior Bryce Bowman, typically a center attacking midfielder, was moved back to Bliss’ spot in the defense. It was the first time he had played there all season.

Ramirez said Bowman and the rest of the Mavericks filled Bliss’ role perfectly.

“Knowing that these boys just pulled off the most important win of the season without one of our starwart defenders is just incredible and a testament to that it’s not 11 players out there,” Ramirez said. “It’s 12. It’s 13. It’s 14. It’s a complete team effort.”

The Mavericks will play for the school’s first soccer state championship at 2 p.m. Saturday in Topeka.

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