By Salvatore Sesti/Sunflower State FC
Blue Valley High School in Stilwell, KS hosted the final regular season game of the NPSL season for both Sunflower State FC and Demize NPSL, and both teams fighting for their playoff lives.
The Demize, coached by Matthew Caley, sat one point above Sunflower State FC with 16 points entering this match. A win by either team would secure third place in the Heartland Conference and guarantee a playoff match in Oklahoma.
In the first ten minutes both teams traded shots, and in the 12th minute the Demize struck first.
Defender Gerado Garcia beat his man at the top of the box, and found the foot of forward Jamie O’Brien who made it a 1-0 lead for the visitors.
Eight minutes later Sunflower would respond, left back Tim Smith was found on a through ball,
and beat one defender. He passed to forward Nick McDonald who added to his tally as all-time leading goal scorer for Sunflower State. The score was now 1-1.
The rest of the half started to gain an edge with yellows brandished to three players.
And before halftime the Demize would regain their lead. Forward Isaac Pimenta crossed the ball and found the head of Garcia. Then Garcia headed it to O’Brien who beat goalkeeper Noah Reuscher to make it 2-1.
The second half started off with a Sunflower State goal. JP Pascarella won the ball in the
midfield and played it to Colin Innes. His through ball beat the press and found Cooper Forcellini. He then beat the keeper and found the boot of McDonald who scored to make it 2-2.
In the 58th minute, Demize would push to find a third goal. They exposed an advanced Sunflower full back and McDonald was left to track back. He pulled down a Demize player to earn his second yellow card of the game. This would force his side to play with 10 men for the rest of the game.
Demize NPSL wasted little time regaining the lead. In the 64th minute Charles Guelly toed the end line and was not closed down by the Sunflower defense. He found O’Brien who buried a shot in the back of the net, earning his hat trick and the 3-2 lead.
Missed chances by Demize and several good saves by Reuscher allowed Sunflower
to stay in the game, but if the score stayed the same Sunflower would end their season in Stilwell.
In the 86th minute midfielder Tim Smith blazed past the Demize defense before he was tripped up from behind the penalty box. Innes would tie the game at 3-3 with three minutes left to play.
Tempers flared in the Kansas summer heat, and both Sunflower State head coach Kenny Mayer and midfielder Ope Obakin would be sent off.
Sunflower won the ball quickly after the restart and a quick one-two between Innes and
Forcellini unlocked the Demize defense once more. Innes won the one-on-one with goalkeeper
Nicolas Helin to claim Sunflower State’s first and last lead of the game.
The referee would blow the final whistle in the 98th minute, and Sunflower State FC emerged with a 4-3 win. The result put Sunflower State in third place in the Heartland Conference and booked them a ticket to play OKC 1889 FC on Wednesday, July 13th. Demize NPSL also qualified for the playoffs in fourth place and will travel to Oklahoma to take on Tulsa Athletic.
Photo Credit: Jessica Baker and Samantha McClure/Sunflower State FC