PITTSBURG — For the third consecutive year, the Pittsburg High School soccer team finished atop of the SEK by beating Independence 6-2 on Thursday.
The final game of the regular season featured everything one could hope for in a soccer match. Physical play, penalty kicks and late-game drama highlighted what was a much closer game than the four-point victory would suggest.
“This was our last regular season game at home,” PHS head coach Kyle Bockover said. “We really wanted to play well for the seniors and their families which came out to support them, and have supported us through the entire season.”
Not only did the Purple Dragons take home the SEK title for the fourth time in program history, but the seniors ended their regular-season careers at home on high note.
The PHS graduating seniors are Trevin Jameson, Kody Morrell, Cameron Lee, Emmanuel Garcia, David Garcia, Carlos Calderon, Adan Hernandez, Nelson Guzman, Caleb Dial, Jacob Unruh, Johnny Avalos and Keaton Meadows.
“You’re lucky if you get a team with one or two leaders, but I’m very fortunate to have a team full of leaders,” Bockover said. “All of the guys on the team really stepped up this season. We had a lot of individuals who really came together as a family at the end of the season.”
It was a chilly night on the pitch, but the bad blood between the two teams was on full display throughout, as every goal had to be fought for.
Pittsburg held a 1-0 lead going into the break at halftime, but the offensive production ramped up in the second half, in which Pittsburg found the back of the net five times and Independence scored twice.
Less than five minutes into the second half, Calderon put the Purple Dragons up 2-0 after weaving through multiple defenders and beating the keeper from just a few feet out for the goal.
David Garcia put one in the net at the 27-minute mark just inside the goalie box to extend the lead to 3-0.
Again, PHS hit the scoreboard just three minutes later to go up 4-0 on a bizarre play.
Just a few feet away from the goal on the left side, Gumaro Rodriguez kicked the ball off the post, which then ricocheted off the post, hit a Bulldog’s defensive player and carried over the goal line.
Independence had been putting multiple shots on goal, but was held in check by the Pittsburg goalie Kevin Granadeno, who made a pair of spectacular saves to maintain a clean sheet.
The Bulldogs eventually hit the scoreboard after several shots on goal, scoring once at the 22-minute mark and once more with 10 minutes left in the game to cut the deficit to 4-2.
However, Pittsburg got the two goals back to hang on and win.
With two-and-half minutes to play, Jaime Maldonado dribbled through the Bulldog’s defense and scored a goal from the left side of the goalie box, and Jameson scored the final goal of the match with under a minute to play on a penalty kick.
Jameson was the offensive catalyst, scoring two goals with one assist.
Granadeno couldn’t manage to maintain the clean sheet, but made four saves throughout the game to keep PHS on top.
-- Jordan Buckamneer is a sports reporter of the Pittsburg Morning Sun. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on twitter @jbuckamneer.