There are only 24 teams still alive, and nine of them hail from the Wichita area.
The regional round of the 2019 Kansas high school boys soccer playoffs is complete. Here is a recap of the Wichita area’s biggest games:
Wichita Heights at Derby: Pure acrophobia
One word appears on the back of Heights’ warm-up shirts: acrophobia.
Acrophobia is the fear of heights, and Heights showed why the rest of Kansas should fear the Falcons on Thursday. They beat Derby 3-2 on the road and scored all three in the first half.
Heights hadn’t captured a boys soccer regional championship in more than 10 years. Coach Dylan Fiegel said he tried to trace back further in time but couldn’t find the last time it happened. Point being: It has been a while.
Three years ago, when the Falcon seniors were sophomores, Heights won three games. Senior captain center back Emiliano Banuelos call it “rock bottom.”
“My heart is about to explode right now,” Banuelos said. “I’m shaking. I’m feeling the adrenaline. I could play another game right now if you wanted me to.”
The adrenaline was pumping for senior forward Kobe Marth, too. Marth opened the scoring with a beautiful right-footed curling goal on an assist from sophomore Zaid Sibaai just 10 minutes in.
Thursday’s win meant a lot to Marth, who started his career at Heights before transferring to Wichita North and moving back to Heights for his last year.
“I’ve won two regional titles, including this one, but this one is a lot more special to me,” Marth said. “I’m with my friends. We’re a family. It feels right.”
Heights enters the Class 6A quarterfinals as the No. 3 seed and must go on the road to No. 2 Dodge City, who has only three losses this season but one of them coming to Heights 4-3 in overtime in the Titan Classic.
Senior goalkeeper Zach Wells said the project isn’t complete. He said he is ecstatic about Thursday’s win because the program has been building toward it for four years, but Thursday was a only a step along the way.
“It’s surreal,” Marth said. “You feel like every single time you come out here, it could be your last, but you always put in that extra fight, that extra toughness to prevail. I feel like we’re going to do that the rest of way because none of us want to see us go down.”
Great Bend at Eisenhower: And still undefeated
There is one undefeated team left in Kansas, but it suffered a scare in the regional championship.
Eisenhower was pushed to overtime at home against No. 8 Great Bend but pulled out a 2-1 victory to clinch its regional title. Great Bend nearly pulled the upset for the second straight year.
Last year, Great Bend went to Andover Central - one of the strongest teams in the Wichita area - and won to move on to the quarterfinals against Maize South. It was one of the biggest upsets of the boys soccer season in the state.
Eisenhower lost its regional championship last season to Maize South in overtime. In 2019, the Tigers pulled through as they have all season. Eisenhower has won four one-goal games and tied a fifth against Derby.
The top-seeded Tigers will face No. 4 McPherson at home Tuesday in the Class 5A quarterfinals.
Bishop Carroll at Andover Central: Different Jaguars
There are a new set of soccer kings in the Wichita area in 2019.
For years, Bishop Carroll and Kapaun Mt. Carmel have been staples to the Class 5A quarterfinals, almost locks. In 2019, neither advanced past the regional championship. Andover Central ensured Carroll wouldn’t with a 3-2 overtime win Thursday. Maize South held Kapaun out with a 2-0 win.
Last year, Great Bend stunned Andover Central in the regional championship. This season, the Jaguars proved to be different and came through with a game-winning goal from Leo Wurth.
Senior forward Leyton Harper scored a brace. Tristen Saunders had multiple assists, and goalkeeper Blake Robison saved a penalty kick that would have been decisive.
Andover Central will be the No. 2 seed in the quarterfinal round, which sets up a rematch against AVCTL II foe Maize South, who is the No. 3 seed in Class 5A West. The Jaguars beat Maize South 2-1 on Oct. 22.