In a vigorously contested game that no doubt left some players with nicks and bruises, the Pittsburg Purple Dragons soccer team battled Salina Central throughout the regulation 80 minutes Tuesday and narrowly missed taking the regional tournament struggle to overtime before losing 3-2.

In a vigorously contested game that no doubt left some players with nicks and bruises, the Pittsburg Purple Dragons soccer team battled Salina Central throughout the regulation 80 minutes Tuesday and narrowly missed taking the regional tournament struggle to overtime before losing 3-2.

Central’s Mustangs took 10 shots on goal to Pittsburg’s five, but the Dragons were determined and showed good skills around their goal, either stalemating Salina and regaining possession or booting the ball out of bounds.

The co-ed home squad surrendered the Mustangs’ first goal on a running boot into the net’s left side by Jesse Lennon two minutes into the game, but then Pittsburg’s Alex McNay tied it, heading in the ball on Benny Klos’ kick from the corner with 29:54 left in the half.

With Pittsburg’s Efrain Salas, Nereo Rodriguez, Mercedes McGuire, Colt Kilmer and Josh Wilde providing effective defense, Salina had difficulty taking further advantage of the strong west wind at their backs.

An estimated 100 spectators watched Dragons goalkeeper Sean Perkins make save after save, sometimes catching the ball before booming it back to midfield and at other times tipping it over the net.

The Mustangs’ Damion Cooper scored from the left side with 23:25 left, and the Dragons’ Tyler Hubbard missed a chance to tie it again on a penalty kick after he was pushed at 6:41, faking to the right and rolling the ball to the left, whereupon the Central goalie lunged forward and caught it.

Pittsburg finally got the wind at its back at the outset of the second half but still had trouble advancing past midfield.

The Mustangs managed to outnumber them in front of the goal, and Carlos Fabela powered in Central’s third point of the day at 37:57.

Then Perkins launched a moon kick down the right side, the wind moved it to the middle and Hubbard, racing ahead of everyone, cashed in with a leftward-spinning kick at 37:08.

Klos put up the most tantalizing shot of the day with 2:53 left, prompting cheers and then groans from the crowd as the ball zoomed just past the Central goalie’s out-stretched gloves within three or four inches of carooming in the net.

Coach Wraine Meadows was happy that the Dragons played so hard and said the outcome would have been different with better luck a couple of times.

“It was good, hard, physical soccer, and that’s what I like to see,” Meadows said. “It was very competitive.”

Salina coach Nicholas Owen said his bunch “came out strong” early but lost focus and let the Dragons back into it. “It’s not an excuse, but we have usually been playing on turf,” Owen said.

“We’re not used to grass, which slows the ball down. We were better in the second half, but Pittsburg was tough. It’s the playoffs. We get to move on, so we’re happy about that.”

James R. Campbell can be reached at james.campbell@morningsun.net.