TOPEKA — Eleven in a row.
That’s how many wins the Westview boys soccer team has rattled off consecutively. None of the prior 10 felt as sweet as Saturday nights did, though.
In sudden death penalty kicks of the Class 1A Sectional 35 championship game, Warrior sophomore Braden Eash scored to give Westview a 2-1 (5-4 PKs) victory over Bethany Christian for the program’s first sectional title since 2016.
After the teams were tied at four through the first five rounds of penalty kicks, the game moved into sudden death. The Bruins shot first, but it was saved by Westview senior goalkeeper Drew Litwiller. This left the door open for Eash to be a hero.
“Just don’t kick it over (the net),” said Eash was his mindset stepping up to the PK. “I was just trying to get it low and into a corner. … I was just trying to not think about what I was going to do the entire time. When I got up to the ball, it started getting a little more intense. But I got up there, tried to keep my calm and place it in a corner.”
Eash drilled the shot, and the Warriors were sectional champions. They mobbed each other at midfield in celebration.
“This has been amazing,” Eash said. “We started off so rough, then we started coming together as a team. Started to play amazing soccer and we’ve just gone on this great run.”
After starting the season 1-7-1, the Warriors are now 12-7-1.
Westview coach Jamie Martin gave credit to Litwiller for not only his outstanding play, but his off-the-field role as well.
“Drew’s been so good for us, not just in the goal, but he brings a sense of leadership with him,” Martin said. “He’s a great kid and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
The dramatic ending came after 94 intense minutes of game action. Neither team scored in regulation or the first overtime, leaving the game scoreless with seven minutes to go. Less than two minutes into the second overtime, though, Westview freshman Teague Misner scored on a left-footed shot to put the Warriors ahead 1-0.
Less than a minute later, however, Bruins sophomore Jordan Richer drew a foul in the goalie box, setting up a penalty kick of his own. The sophomore drilled it, tying the game at one and setting up the dramatics in the penalty kicks.
“We’re down 1-0 in the second overtime and we respond right away and score within the next minute,” Bethany Christian coach Tony Janzen said. “That’s what these guys have shown late in the season: the ability to respond to tough situations.”
Bethany Christian finishes its season with a 5-11-2 record. It was the first year for Janzen as a head coach, and he was proud of his team’s resiliency throughout the season.
“We took some lumps early in the year, losing our first game 8-0 to Northridge,” Janzen said. “This team has come so far and it’s kind of a gut-wrenching feeling in losing that way. … I can’t be more proud of the work and the effort they put into this season, and especially (Saturday).”
Westview will now play Kouts in the regional semifinal Saturday at 10 a.m. at Argos. The host Dragons and Morgan Township play in the second semifinal at 12 p.m., with the championship game at 7 p.m.
“It feels amazing,” Martin said. “My guys battled back from a lot this year. Where we’re at right now, 11 (wins) in a row — I mean, come on. I never thought (we’d be here), but they won’t quit. They just play hard, keep working hard and good things happen.”