An eventful match for both wrong and right reasons ended in frustration for the Hays High boys soccer team, with the Indians suffering a 2-1 loss to Buhler on Thursday night at Hays High Field.

The match was marred by an incident in which a Buhler player was ejected for punching a Hays High player during the closing seconds of the first half. The teams were separated and no other punches were thrown.

With Hays trailing by the 2-1 score, the conclusion of the match was delayed by a storm that began to roll through with 11:26 remaining. Both teams agreed to wait out the delay, which lasted about an hour and 20 minutes.

Things then ended in entertaining fashion amid steady rain, with Buhler thwarting several Hays opportunities to keep the Indians at bay in the final moments.

“The kids didn’t quit. They were battling toward the end, which is encouraging as a coach,” Hays High coach Silas Hibbs said. “Obviously a little adversity happened and we needed to respond in a way to protect our home field.

“I give props to Buhler, though. They had a choice to leave when the lightning started and they chose to play it out. I think that was a class act on the side of their coach (Bransyn Felty).”

The punch, thrown by Buhler goalkeeper Collin Severud, occurred after a squirmish broke out after an Indians’ throw-in toward the goal in the last few seconds of the half. The punch landed to the head of a Hays player, who was briefly shaken up but appeared to be fine shortly after the incident and remained in the game. Severud was the only player ejected. 

Hibbs said he thought his players came to each other’s defense without escalating the situation by throwing punches.

“I was proud of our team for watching out for one another,” Hibbs said. “I was proud that our team didn’t throw any punches. I was proud that it was our team running on the field and protecting our players.

“I would have been more proud if we would prevented two goals from going in, playing stronger with our head. But with 11 minutes left, they didn’t quit.”

The Indians’ lone goal was by senior Trae McCrae, who received the ball at midfield after a misplay from Buhler and converted a breakaway opportunity with 4:04 left in the half. McCrae has now scored in each of his first two games back from an injury. 

Hibbs said the Indians had an energetic talk at halftime.

“It was actually a really encouraging halftime,” Hibbs said. “If anything, it was one of those moments in the season where we were making the climb back up. Credit to Buhler, they put two in the second half.”

The Crusaders evened the score early in the second half and scored the game-winning goal with 21:09 left when Kayden Polk found an empty net on a loose ball that deflected off the hands of Hays goalkeeper Connor Teget. 

Hays created several looks after the delay but came up empty, suffering their fifth straight loss and dropping to 3-6. 

“I think we dominated the last 11 minutes,” Hibbs said. “I think we had multiple opportunities to score. But we just couldn’t find the back of the net, which has been kind of an issue for us the whole season now.”

Hays will play at Garden City on Saturday.