By AUSTIN COLBERT
First-year Hays High School boys' soccer coach Jim Maska has spent more than a decade coaching club soccer, and over that time he coached against McPherson High School sophomore Andric McGill.
So it wasn't a surprise when he saw McGill split the Indians' defense to score the game-tying goal in the 22nd minute of the second half in Thursday's game at HHS Field.
"Just made a small mistake. Let a guy turn into the inside ... and he whipped it and pulled it," Maska said of McGill's goal. "I know he can do that. So they've got to learn to force kids outside."
McGill's goal carried the teams into a pair of overtimes, only to have the game finish in a 1-1 draw in the Indians' 2014 home opener.
Compared to their 4-1 loss at Garden City to open the season Tuesday, Maska felt Thursday's tie saw substantial improvement.
"The big improvement was we were holding shape better, especially our back line," Maska said. "Those two overtimes, we really did dominate, I really thought. We had the ball in our half, offensive half of the field, a lot more than they did. The boys grew up. We are still a little out of shape. Still got to get there, but eventually we will."
Hays High (0-1-1) and McPherson played a scoreless first half. The Indians finally broke the silence in the 11th minute of the second half, when senior forward Nathan Romme was fouled and the team awarded a penalty kick.
Maska called on junior Riley Zimmerman to tango with McPherson goalie Sam Minnick, the dance ending with Zimmerman's shot in the back of the net and the Indians with a 1-0 lead, their first lead of the season.
"Nathan, he got attacked from behind and they had to call it. What else could you do?" Zimmerman said of the foul on Romme. "When Jim told me to take the shot, I was believing in myself. I was looking at one corner to fake the goalie out and I just looked and went to the other side and got that goal."
The Indians' veteran defense was holding strong until McGill snuck one past Hays High's sophomore goalkeeper, Conner Staab. Both teams had chances to finish the game in regulation, McPherson missing off a corner kick with less than two minutes to play, and Romme's solo attack falling short with less than a minute remaining.
A flying header attempt by McPherson junior Jose Arriola ricocheted off the top of the cross bar in the second minute of the first overtime, the greatest scare the Indians' received in extra time.
Romme's shot barely two minutes into the second overtime period was Hays High's best opportunity, but Minnick caught enough of the ball to send it sailing harmlessly away. A few last ditch efforts by the Indians over the final minutes of overtime couldn't keep the game from ending in the 1-1 draw.
"The opportunities were there. We should have put three or four easily into the net. But hey, that's the way it is," Maska said. "We got to work a little on finishing and work on keeping our shape. That's the important part. If we keep our shape, we look really, really good."
Hays High will take to the road again next week, when it begins play Tuesday at the Maize South Invitational against this same McPherson team. For Maska, it will be another opportunity to defeat Bulldog coach Chris Adrian, a close friend he grew to know from club soccer.
"Believe it or not, him and I have actually combined some of the boys during the summer months, the younger kids, and gone to tournaments in the summer and played together," Maska said. "There is a nice friendship there, but when it comes to having to play against each other, the rivalry is there. It's definitely a good match."
Hays High 1, McPherson 1
McPherson 0 1 0 -- 1
Hays High (0-1-1) 0 1 0 -- 1
Hays High, Zimmerman, 51st minute (penalty kick); McPherson, McGill, 62nd minute.
Saves -- Minnick 8, McPherson; Staab 6, Hays High. Shots -- McPherson 7, Hays High 9.