Late goal dashs streak, not confidence
The ball slipped from the safety of a pack of De Soto defenders and Gardner Edgerton senior Shane Garmes boomed it toward the net, blasting the game-winning double-overtime goal high over De Soto goalie Tyler Phongsavath's head, the shot arching down just in time to sink into the back of the net.
The shot ended the game after 92 minutes. It ended De Soto's winning streak at six games, its shutout streak at five.
It ended a long, cold and particularly muddy night with a dip in reality the surging Wildcats hadn't been expecting.
The Cats were emphatic, however. It did not end their season or their run of good play.
It did not end their plans to carry momentum into the postseason tournament.
"It wasn't that frustrating, actually," De Soto sophomore Duncan Henderson said. "We learned a lot. That was the first time we went to overtime.
"It's better to get (a loss) out now than it is to lose in the playoffs."
Despite the streak-snapping loss, the Cats weren't disgusted with their play Tuesday. Rather, they pointed to their numerous scoring opportunities in regulation and control of much of the game as evidence that even in a loss, their momentum didn't subside.
De Soto dominated the first half, pushing the action on Gardner's side of the field for the vast majority of the first 40 minutes, then most of the next 20 after the half as well.
Crisp passes and an aggressive attack never quite paid off, however, and it was De Soto fighting from the ropes late in the second half and into the first overtime period.
Gardner surged while De Soto slowed. Trailblazers runs on goal replaced the Cats' well-timed and executed possessions.
While Phongsavath kept the score tied, the momentum had shifted.
"That game should have been over long before that (last) shot," De Soto coach Darren Erpelding said. "We had plenty of chances to win that game, so we can't blame anyone buy ourselves.
"They didn't out play us or do anything special. We just didn't put the ball away."
Even late De Soto had chances. Scott McKechnie played a ball across the field to TJ Blankenship, who found himself isolated one-on-one with the Gardner goalie.
Lined up 20 yards out and on the keepers left side, Blankenship dashed in a few steps before hammering the ballot the outside of the goal. A diving save sent the threatening ball out of bounds.
De Soto failed to convert on the ensuing corner kick and missed its best chance to win.
"It's always hard to lose, especially when you've been playing well," Erpelding said. "But it's not like we played bad. We just didn't finish.
"We've been on the other side of that this year, too."
The task is now to follow up on the promises to keep rolling.
De Soto will close out its regular season and say goodbye to seven seniors at 6 p.m. Thursday as it hosts Eudora. Then its on to the regional playoffs were the team will likely earn at least one more home game.
"We can bounce back," Henderson said.