The Hays High boys soccer team worked hard defensively to protect a one-goal lead and then finished strong with a couple late goals in a 3-0 win over Junction City on Tuesday at HHS Field.
Hays (3-6) scored in the first four minutes and maintained the 1-0 lead until breaking through with two more goals in the last 5:20 of the game to seal it.
"I was encouraged with the boys’ physical play and encouraged that they had the tenacity to finish it at the end, for sure," Hays High coach Silas Hibbs said.
Cesar Macias gave the Indians the quick lead, scoring off an assist from Diego Muller.
The scored stayed the same until Samuel Rider fired in a shot off a pass from Brantlee Staab with 5:20 left in the game.
"My heart’s probably the most happy for Sam, because he had ACL surgery last year, didn’t get to play a lot and he’s just been trying to find his spot in the rotation," Hibbs said. "He stayed with it. I know there’a a lot of frustration probably that was released with that goal. I’m most happy for Sam to get that monkey off his back and just be able to enjoy the game because I know it’s hard coming back from an injury. I was just really proud of him."
Staab continued his promising freshman season by scoring on a free kick just outside the box with 1:21 left.
"Brantlee’s a great player and he’s only a freshman, too," Hibbs said. "He just loves the game. He has a natural gift to play the game. Super competitive. Not the biggest guy, not the strongest, but he loves the game and he moves strong. He’s unselfish. I was really proud of his play. He’s been solid for us all year long and I’m really excited to watch him grow throughout the years."
Hibbs liked his team’s energy level defensively.
"We didn’t execute perfectly on offense," he said, "but defensively we were a little bit gritty today, and I know that’s what got us the win.
"Jake Taliaferro in the back has been a rock for us all year long. Same with (Brandon) Musil. Musil’s been hurt .. but he’s still just a rock back there. We have some younger outside backs that were flying forward toward the attack, which is what we wanted. Our back line has been relatively solid all year long."
Alecxiz Cano earned the shutout in goal.
"First shutout of the year for him," Hibbs said. "He did really well."
Hibbs is hoping his Indians can start peaking in the second half of the season.
"I’ve been saying all year long if we can play the full 80 minutes with the brains up stairs we’re going to do just fine and do well come postseason," Hibbs said. "I think they’re getting more comfortable. A lot of them are playing new positions in a little bit new system.
"I think if they can bring the focus and the mental preparedness, they’re going to do just fine."
Hays High will play at Liberal on Thursday.