Louisburg soccer ready for Bishop Miege test

Louisburg’s Grant Ryals (left) and the rest of the Louisburg High School boys soccer team will go for the program’s first state title tonight when the Wildcats face off with Bishop Miege in the Class 4-1A state semfinals at 7 p.m., in Topeka.

Preparing to play two more games this late in the season has never been on the itinerary for any member of the Louisburg boys soccer team – ever.

Following the Wildcats’ first state quarterfinal victory in school history Tuesday over Trinity Academy, Louisburg is heading into uncharted territory. The Wildcats are gearing up for a chance to win the program’s first state championship this weekend when they travel to the Class 4-1A state tournament in Topeka.

Still, the images from their 1-0 win over Trinity are still fresh in the players’ mind as they celebrated the program’s biggest win in its 14-year existence.

“It is amazing how at the beginning of the year maybe 20 people came to our game, and now since we played in the state quarterfinals, people just packed the stadium,” Louisburg junior Grant Ryals said. “Everyone is sitting on the ground, you have people standing along the fence and the line to congratulate us after the game is as long as the whole sideline – it just pretty amazing. We appreciate all the support.”

Players and coaches were inundated with phone calls and texts following the game, and into the night, congratulating them on their accomplishment.

“My phone was blowing up all night Tuesday and well into the early morning from either, Facebook, Twitter, text messages or just calls from family, old teammates and fellow coaches,” Louisburg coach Kyle Conley said. “It was an unbelievable experience and I think that the boys and the program past and present truly enjoyed it. Everyone in the school and community is talking about these boys and the success they are having and rightfully so. Because of that, I felt it spilled over into Wednesday’s training, but we got pretty focused throughout practice.”

However, there is no more time for celebration as the Wildcats will face their biggest test of the season in the Class 4-1A state semifinals when they face off with Bishop Miege at 7 p.m. tonight at Topeka’s Hummer Sports Park Complex.

Bishop Miege (16-2-1) is no stranger to the state tournament as they have won four state titles since 1998 and have been a state runner-up five times. The Stags have also won 15 regional titles in the program’s history.

Their lone losses this season were a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Blue Valley West and a double overtime loss to Blue Valley Southwest. The Stags also tied with St. Thomas Aquinas.

Louisburg (14-4-1) realizes it has a tall order in front of them if it wants to play in the championship game – maybe one of Biblical proportions.

“They are basically Goliath and I think everyone knows that,” Louisburg senior Curran Conklin said. “That is more of a challenge for us and I think we are ready to take that on.”

The Wildcats will look to lean on a defense that has posted back-to-back shutouts in the playoffs that is led by Conklin, seniors Kolten Ragan and Jacob Benne, junior Kris Light and senior goalie Ambrose Stefan.

Junior defender Kris Light heads the ball away during Tuesday's state quarterfinal match against Trinity.

Junior defender Kris Light heads the ball away during Tuesday’s state quarterfinal match against Trinity.

It is the defense that has kept the Wildcats in several matches this season and they know they are playing some of their best soccer right now.

“Knowing our defensive line is as good as they are, it helps all of us play better because we are comfortable and we trust each other,” Ragan said. “I know Ambrose is comfortable with us and I think that helps him perform better as well. We all help each other.”

Still, Conley realizes the task will be a difficult one, but it is a challenge his team is looking forward to.

“Miege is unbelievably talented team,” Conley said. “They have been to countless state final fours and have won more than their fair share of state championships. “They are not just an extremely talented team, but have a fantastic coach as well. They are a team that will play very quick and as a team throughout the game. They move the ball fast and will exploit any weakness you team has.

“This could be the best team that this program has ever played. They are deep in talent and play extremely disciplined. We are clearly the underdog and that is fine with us. We have gotten zero respect for most of the season from the coaches poll in our ranking, so this is just another chance for us to prove people wrong.”

Win or lose, the Wildcats are guaranteed two matches and have a chance to bring home the program’s first state plaque. If Louisburg wins, they will play the winner of Basehor-Linwood and Andover Central in the championship at 2 p.m., on Saturday. Should they lose, the Wildcats will play at noon for third-place.

The top three placers at state are awarded trophies and the players hope they will be able to put a team picture in one for all to see.

“It would mean everything to me,” said senior Noah Juarez of possibly bringing home a state trophy. “If we can bring back a plaque I think people would remember us for a very long time in a positive way.”

Opinion: Team comes together to break barrier

The Louisburg High School boys soccer team celebrates following its state quarterfinal victory Tuesday over Trinity Academy in Louisburg. 

Late in Tuesday’s state quarterfinal game against Trinity Academy, Louisburg senior Herman Knipp was laying on the ground in pain.

His legs were taken out from under him by a Trinity player, who was later given a red card for the incident. He got up, walked it off and moved on.

Three minutes later, Knipp was on the top of the world – and so were the rest of the Louisburg soccer faithful. His goal in the 75th minute gave the Wildcats a 1-0 win over Trinity and their first state quarterfinal victory.

Knipp’s goal not only put his team in the state semifinals, but alleviated years of pain past Wildcat players have endured with his one shot. Prior to this season, Louisburg had advanced to the state quarterfinals six times only to see its season come to an end.

Several alumni from the program were on hand to witness history under the lights Tuesday at the Wildcat Sports Complex. Some were just as excited as the players.

“It is unbelievable,” said Louisburg coach Kyle Conley, who is in his first year with the program. “All the stuff that coach (Ben) York and the previous players did prior to this year was great. There were some really good teams that came through here, but they always got stuck in this round. We are always talking about let’s take the program on our shoulders and see where we can go and do something different.

“All the pressure was on (Trinity), not us. They had been in this spot 15 of the last 16 years and the pressure is on them. This is our field and we don’t lose at home. We are undefeated here and this is what we do. I mean, how hard did these kids play? It was just awesome. I couldn’t be prouder of a group of kids.”

Louisburg head coach Kyle Conley is doused with cold water thanks to Herman Knipp and Eric Vazquez (14) following Tuesday's win.

Louisburg head coach Kyle Conley is doused with cold water thanks to Herman Knipp and Eric Vazquez (14) following Tuesday’s win.

In fact, one could even say Knipp’s goal might be the most important in Wildcat soccer history –depending on your point of view. There have been many vital goals, or plays, in the last 14 years, but Knipp’s might stand out more than most.

There is no one else that could say their shot put their team in the state semifinals – which speaks volumes.

At the same time, I am not saying this one goal was the lone reason for the Wildcats’ success. It absolutely wasn’t. This was a team effort and it started on the other end of the field.

Louisburg’s defense has carried the Wildcats in the postseason as they have given up just one goal in three games. Goalie Ambrose Stefan has earned back-to-back shutouts of Field Kindley and Trinity, and he has racked up several very large saves in the process.

When teams have found cracks in the Wildcat defense, Stefan has been there to protect the net. The Wildcat back line of junior Kristopher Light, along with seniors Kolten Ragan, Curran Conklin and Jacob Benne, have provided a solid front.

It has been fun to watch them grow as many of those players didn’t see significant varsity minutes last season and have come together as a unit. Benne and Conklin have made it tough on the opposition as the team’s outside backs.

Senior Jacob Benne clears the ball away during Tuesday's state quarterfinal game.

Senior Jacob Benne clears the ball away during Tuesday’s state quarterfinal game.

“Teams go after those two and I don’t get it,” Conley said. “I am not sure if they aren’t scouting us or what, but if you are going after our outside backs, you are not going to win that battle many times. All year, teams go after them. They might be bigger and faster than our guys, but those two keeping grinding and do their job. They keep it simple and they are fantastic.

“They are a huge anchor on the outside and that gives us a little freedom to stay compacted to take away the middle. It is a credit to them because they work so hard and do all the ugly stuff. They are coachable and they listen. Their progression from June 1 to now has been unbelieveable.”

The Wildcats also have a solid midfield with one of the best players in Class 4-1A in Noah Juarez. The Louisburg senior leads the Wildcats in scoring and will no doubt make the all-league team for a fourth straight season.

Juniors Grant Ryals, Scott Murphy and Raistlin Brewer, freshman Landon Johnson and seniors Calvin Cassida and Ty Martin have all come up big from the midfield spot at one time or another this season. Sophomore Jonathan Ventre is the same way from the forward position.

Conley has brought this team together and has them believing that they have nothing to lose – which quite honestly – they don’t. No one, including me, thought this group was going to be one of four teams left standing.

“We are playing with house money right now,” Conley said. “We have nothing to lose and everything to gain. All those teams have everything to lose. We are just going to ride it out and see what happens.”

That is what makes this story even more special. In the nine years I have covered Louisburg athletics, I have seen more talented teams take the field and watch as their season has come up short. This group, though, has overcome a lot and they are stronger for it.

These Wildcats have won the hearts of a lot of soccer fans in this town and it was evident Tuesday night following the win. I don’t get goosebumps often, but it was hard not to after watching fans line up the length of the field to congratulate the team.

“The student section was great and the atmosphere was just fantastic,” Conley said. “You can’t ask for a better group of kids who just scream, yell and have fun. The kids feed off that and was great.”

The fans joined the players in the ‘Icelandic Thunder Clap’ following their victory and the party was on. It lasted for several minutes as several hugs were given and countless pictures were taken to document what was an historic night for Louisburg soccer.

A night many Wildcat fans won’t soon forget.

History in the making: Wildcats move on to state semis

Louisburg senior Herman Knipp celebrates his goal that gave the Wildcats a 1-0 win over Trinity Academy in the Class 4-1A state quarterfinals Tuesday in Louisburg. The Wildcats advanced to the state semifinals for the first time in program history.

The state quarterfinal round has been nothing but heartbreak for the Louisburg High School boys soccer team.

In their previous six appearances, the Wildcats have seen their season come to an end and those players were left only to dream what playing in the state final four would be like.

There will be no imagining this time around.

Louisburg got a goal in the 75th minute from senior Herman Knipp to give the Wildcats a 1-0 victory over Trinity Academy on Tuesday in the state quarterfinals in Louisburg. The curse of the state quarterfinal round was finally lifted.

“It is exhilarating,” Knipp said. “It is a feeling that you can’t get anywhere else. It was amazing. This is opportunity that no one else has had. I just want to make the best out of going to state because we are the first to do it from Louisburg. To see all the people and alumni from Louisburg who had smiles on their faces, it is just indescribable.”

It was a quarterfinal game that featured its fair share of drama, but none more than in the final eight minutes – and Knipp was right in the middle of it all.

The Louisburg forward was taken out from behind, near midfield with eight minutes left in the second half. The referee awarded the Trinity player a red card and the Knights were forced to play a man down the rest of the match.

Three minutes later, the mistake came back to haunt the Knights. A Trinity defender had possession at the top of the box, but Knipp sprinted from the sideline to put pressure on the play.

Knipp knocked the ball away from the defender the ball flipped into the air in the box and Knipp had a one-on-one with the goalie and put the shot away.

“They had to put a forward back in their defense and I don’t think he really knew what he was doing,” Knipp said. “He just held the ball for too long. I knew if I could put pressure on him I could get the ball and that is what really caused the goal was the pressure.”

Louisburg senior Noah Juarez slides into keep the ball away from three Trinity players Tuesday in Louisburg.

Louisburg senior Noah Juarez slides into keep the ball away from three Trinity players Tuesday in Louisburg.

The goal sent the Louisburg sideline and fans into a frenzy as it was five minutes away from reaching its first state semifinal game.

“We were looking to counter the whole time,” Louisburg coach Kyle Conley said. “We knew they were going to push hard and play that big ball. We just wanted to play our feet and try and counter and go at them. We kept getting chances and were getting close. I knew we were going to get one eventually.

“Trinity wasn’t tracking back near as much in the second half. I am not sure if they were fatigued or not, but we had way more run of play. Then the red card was just icing on the cake.”

However, had it not been for the Wildcat defense, Knipp’s goal wouldn’t have mattered as much. Trinity put pressure on the Louisburg back line early and often in the first half.

Trinity had four shots on goal in the first 20 minutes of action and had a good look at the goal with five minutes left before halftime. Junior goalie Ambrose Stefan turned away the shot with a diving save and also had a sliding stop to knock the ball away earlier in the half.

Louisburg goalie Ambrose Stefan slides in for one of his many saves Tuesday in the state quarterfinals in Louisburg.

Louisburg goalie Ambrose Stefan slides in for one of his many saves Tuesday in the state quarterfinals in Louisburg.

Stefan had another diving save early in the second half to turn away another Trinity opportunity.

“I am really excited,” Stefan said. “I don’t usually show my emotions, but they are showing a lot right now. They had some good shots on us, but I just saw the ball and went and saved it.”

The Louisburg head coach certainly liked what he saw from his defense, especially from his goalie.

“The first half they had such high pressure on us,” Conley said. “The game plan going in was to bend but don’t break and hold your ground. Ambrose made three unbelievable saves. One of them was point blank and he just extended out and knocked it away. That was probably the save of the year for him.”

Louisburg’s defense tightened up its play in the second half and limited the Knights’ chances on goal. Seniors Jacob Benne and Curran Conklin shut down the Trinity attack on the outside, while junior Kris Light and senior Kolten Ragan cleaned up the middle of the field.

“Kris cleaned up a bunch of messes and all four of those guys played unbelievable,” Conley said. “The outside backs Jacob and Curran just shut it down and Kolten in the second half came up huge. We changed the formation a little bit and moved him up so he could clean up their best player. That adjustment really seemed to get us going.”

The Wildcats had more chances on goal in the second half as freshman Landon Johnson had a shot save in the opening minutes. A few moments later, Conklin sent the ball into the box for Johnson, who hit it off the side of his foot, but was robbed of a goal by a diving save from the Trinity goalie.

Wildcat senior Calvin Cassida breaks away from the Trinity defense Tuesday.

Wildcat senior Calvin Cassida breaks away from the Trinity defense Tuesday.

Louisburg continued to put the pressure on the Knights, which eventually led to the red card late in the second half that sent Knipp to the ground.

“I was going after him and the ball, and I came in a little late, but not a whole lot,” Knipp said. “Then I was running back and he kicked my leg out from under me and the ball was way gone. Luckily the AR saw it on my side and it was red card worthy.”

The Wildcats will travel to Topeka on Friday for the Class 4-1A state tournament at Hummer Sports Park and the challenges get even more difficult from here on out.

Louisburg will face off with Bishop Miege at 7 p.m. Friday and will play again on Saturday. The championship match is set for 2 p.m., and the third place game is scheduled for noon.

The Wildcats obviously hope they are playing in the former.

“Hopefully when we come back to Louisburg, we can get some T-shirts that say we are state champions,” Stefan said.

Wildcats shutout Field Kindley for regional title

The Louisburg High School boys soccer team celebrates in the huddle after being presented with the Class 4-1A regional championship trophy Wednesday in Coffeyville. The Wildcats defeated Field Kindley 2-0.

COFFEYVILLE – In a little more than 24 hours, the Louisburg High School boys soccer team played two matches – one that went into double overtime and had to board a bus for a 280-mile round trip for the other.

Players were exhausted. Their legs were weak. But when it was all over, it didn’t really matter.

The Wildcats didn’t feel any pain. The only thing they felt was pride.

Louisburg captured its second consecutive regional title as it defeated Field Kindley 2-0 on Wednesday in Coffeyville’s Veterans Memorial Stadium just hours after defeating Baldwin in double overtime in the regional semifinal.

“To be a part of back-to-back regional titles, it is something that not a lot of people can say happened to them,” senior defender Curran Conklin said. “This is something that I am going to carry with me for the rest of my life, and to me that is important.”

Senior Noah Juarez (right) looks up into the stands with teammate Ty Martin after one of his two second half goals Wednesday in Coffeyville.

Senior Noah Juarez (right) looks up into the stands with teammate Ty Martin after one of his two second half goals Wednesday in Coffeyville.

It is the seventh regional title in Louisburg history as it now advances to the state quarterfinals. Louisburg will host Wichita-Trinity Academy at 5 p.m. Tuesday as it tries to make program history. In its six previous state quarterfinal appearances, the Wildcats have always ended with a loss and they hope to change it this time around.

“It is a great feeling to win a regional title again,” midfielder Noah Juarez said. “It is my senior year and I definitely didn’t want to stop early. I wanted to go as far as I could. Every Louisburg program has stopped at the state quarterfinal and I want to go as far as I can.”

Juarez did his part to help make sure the Wildcats (13-4-1) advanced onto the next round as he scored both goals in the second half. The Louisburg senior broke open a scoreless game with a free kick opportunity from close to 30 yards out.

His shot made its way through several Field Kindley defenders and past the outstretched arms of the goalie to put the Wildcats up with 34 minutes left in the contest.

Although the Wildcats did have shots on goal, the Golden Tornado defense made it difficult as they put several guys back to prevent breakaway opportunities.

“With seven guys behind the ball all the time, it made it tough for us to score,” Conley said. “Then Noah got the opportunity and we wanted him to just shoot it. So we put everyone in front of him and created a lot of traffic for the goalie to see where the ball was coming. Noah just put it on frame and the rest is history. We were just looking to get shots on goal on see what happens and that benefited us tremendously.”

Seven minutes later, Juarez added more breathing room for Louisburg when he put another shot past the Field Kindley goalie to all but seal the win.

“It was a great relief,” Juarez said of the first goal. “I have been struggling with shooting lately, so it was a like a weight was lifted off shoulder a little bit. It was nice to see that go in for mine, and the team’s sake.”

Louisburg was also able to survive a few scares from the Field Kindley attack and the Wildcat defense of Conklin, Kris Light, Kolten Ragan and Jacob Benne, along with midfielder Scott Murphy, tightened things up in the second half and limited its scoring chances.

Field Kindley nearly scored a couple goals in the first half as throw-ins from the sideline into the box found the heads of Golden Tornado players, but the headers were either saved or were just wide of the net.

“It was just tough to get into the flow there for a while,” Conley said. “It was back and forth and they would play five to seven guys behind the ball and they were just packing it in. It got really tough and made it frustrating early. We did get some good chances, we just didn’t finish them.

“Defensively, we covered up tight, but they had a player who could just chuck the ball and that was dangerous for us. It went a long way and it was effective. That was their best opportunity. The second half we were more aggressive defensively and much more direct.”

The LHS boys soccer team poses with its regional championship trophy following its shutout of Field Kindley. The Wildcats will play Trinity Academy on Tuesday in Louisburg in the state quarterfinals.

The LHS boys soccer team poses with its regional championship trophy following its shutout of Field Kindley. The Wildcats will play Trinity Academy on Tuesday in Louisburg in the state quarterfinals.

Now the Wildcats are preparing to reach the Class 4-1A state tournament for the first time in program history. The team standing in Louisburg’s way is Trinity Academy.

Trinity (9-8-1) finished third in the state tournament last season and have won 15 regional titles since 2000. The Wildcats are hoping their home field advantage can help push them onto the next round.

“We are extremely excited to have the opportunity to host,” Conley said. “We will have our work cut out for us. Trinity is a very talented team that is going to be very direct and has an aggressive style of play. We need to pack the house and make it an incredible atmosphere. It is going to be an intense game.”


Ryals’ golden goal puts Wildcats in regional title game

Louisburg High School junior Grant Ryals celebrates his goal in the second overtime to give the Wildcats a 2-1 win over Baldwin on Tuesday in the regional semifinals in Louisburg. The Wildcats will travel to Coffeyville today for the 5 p.m. regional championship game.

Grant Ryals’ face was full of grass and he had trouble breathing as his Louisburg teammates – one by one – dogpiled on him.

The thing was Ryals didn’t care. In fact, he had never felt so good.

Just seconds earlier, Ryals scored the game-winning goal in double overtime as he helped the Wildcats to a 2-1 win over Baldwin on Tuesday in the Class 4A regional semifinals.

“I got a couple grass cuts on my face, but really I was just so happy that couldn’t feel anything,” Ryals said. “It was awesome.”

Ryals took a touch just outside the box midway through the second overtime, made a defender miss and shot to the far post and found the back of the net. The Louisburg junior accounted for both goals as he helped his team advance to the regional championship game.

“I was just praying it would go in,” Ryals said. “I knew I had good contact. I just aimed at the back post and I saw the goalie dive and I knew he wasn’t going to get there. I just started going crazy.”

Members of the Louisburg High School soccer team dogpile on teammate Grant Ryals after he scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime Tuesday in Louisburg.

Members of the Louisburg High School soccer team dogpile on teammate Grant Ryals after he scored the game-winning goal in the second overtime Tuesday in Louisburg.

The Wildcats (12-4-1) will go for their second consecutive regional title game at 5 p.m. today in Coffeyville as they face Field-Kindley High School – the same program they beat for the regional crown a year ago.

After an emotional win yesterday, Louisburg is going to have to gear up again for another tough game against No. 2 seed Field Kindley.

“We had a goal of going 9-7 this season and after we got past that our goal was to get a regional championship,” Louisburg coach Kyle Conley said. “It is regional championship or bust. That is what we are going for. The quick turnaround is unfortunate, but we can’t make any excuses. We have to suck it up and be ready to go. I know Coffeyville is going to want to get some payback for what happened last year. They will be ready and it will be a good challenge.”

The biggest challenge for the Wildcats will be playing another 80 minutes after playing 90-plus minutes against a physical Baldwin team that pressured Louisburg, especially in the second half.

Louisburg had an opportunity to put some space between itself and the Bulldogs in the first half as it had several good looks at the goal, but couldn’t convert. Senior Noah Juarez had two opportunities deep in the box only to have his shots saved.

Freshman Landon Johnson, junior Scott Murphy, junior Raistlin Brewer and sophomore Jonathan Ventre also had shots on goal, but those were either saved or just wide of the mark.

Ryals was able to take advantage of one of those opportunities as he scored to give Louisburg the lead in the 26th minute. Ryals took a shot just outside the box, which ricoched off a Baldwin defender, and he gathered up for another shot and snuck it past the Baldwin goalie.

The Wildcats didn’t have as many chances in the second half as Baldwin pressured the Wildcat defense. The Bulldogs tied the match with just under 10 minutes left in regulation on a shot to the far post.

“It was unbelievable because we had so many chances,” Conley said. “I think we just got a little comfort in that and they came at us with a counter attack. Baldwin didn’t have a ton of chances to score, but they just had a good shot.”

Louisburg junior Scott Murphy tries to win a 50-50 ball against a Baldwin player Tuesday.

Louisburg junior Scott Murphy tries to win a 50-50 ball against a Baldwin player Tuesday.

Despite the goal, the Louisburg defense came up with several big plays, including several from junior Kris Light who turned away several Baldwin opportunities. Defenders Curran Conklin, Jacob Benne, Kolten Ragan, midfielder Scott Murphy, along with goalie Ambrose Stefan, also played a big role.

“Kris is really playing like a stud right now,” Conley said. “He is starting to put it together and feel comfortable. He is realizing that he is pretty good at what he is doing. The outside backs next to him just held their ground. Baldwin tried to go over the top but it didn’t work very often.

“We need to cover up a little more, but we did a good job of holding them to shots from 25 yards out and Ambrose did a good job in goal.”

All that set up Ryals’ heroics in the second overtime as he, and the rest of his teammates, made sure to celebrate a goal that kept their season alive.

“If we would have lost I would have gone home and you wouldn’t have seen me for a week,” Ryals said. “Now we won, I scored two goals for my family (team) and we are playing in the regional championship. It is pretty awesome.”

All of his teammates and fans that packed the Wildcat Sports Complex couldn’t have agreed more.

Second half goals push Wildcats past Ottawa

Louisburg defender Kris Light ends the ball away from an Ottawa player Thursday at Ottawa High School. Louisburg got two second half goals for a 3-1 victory over the Cyclones.

OTTAWA – It would have been easy for the Louisburg High School boys soccer team to overlook its final regular season match of the season.

With the postseason just days away, the Wildcats’ game against Ottawa seemed more than a formality than anything else. Louisburg certainly didn’t treat it that way.

The Wildcats challenged the Cyclones on their home field and scored two goals in the final 30 minutes to come away with a 3-1 victory Thursday in Ottawa. Louisburg finished the regular season with an 11-4-1 record.

“It was really nice to finish on a high note,” Louisburg coach Kyle Conley said. “We worked very hard to accomplish our goals throughout the year and that was the icing on the cake. The boys were determined and it showed in their play. Ottawa is a much improved team and they are playing their system pretty well.

“We struggled a little bit in the midfield because of the condition of the field, but we had adjustments at halftime to play more direct and put the pressure on them. This game should give us confidence going into postseason play.”

Junior Grant Ryals knocks the ball down off his chest Thursday in Ottawa.

Junior Grant Ryals knocks the ball down off his chest Thursday in Ottawa.

The win bumped Louisburg to a No. 3 seed in the East Regional and the Wildcats will host No. 6 Baldwin (6-10) at 6 p.m., on Tuesday. The winner of that match will travel to Coffeyville on Wednesday for a spot in the regional championship.

Louisburg and Baldwin split during the regular season, but Conley said he and his players are looking forward to the challenge of the postseason.

“The playoffs are what we play the game for,” Conley said. “It is a great challenge and provides a lot of adversities. It shows what teams are really made of and gives an opportunity for anything to happen. I am very excited and the boys are too. We will play some very good teams, and in fact, our first round game will be a great test against a confident Baldwin team.”

As for the match against Ottawa, the Wildcats were able to strike first and take a 1-0 halftime lead on a goal from senior Noah Juarez with a minute remaining in the first half.

In the first half, the Louisburg defense worked hard to keep Ottawa off the board as it had several chances to take the lead. The Cyclones’ best chance came with 24 minutes left in the first half as they took a shot on goal, it rebounded off goalie Ambrose Stefan and rolled toward the goal.

Senior defender Jacob Benne reacted quickly and sent the ball away just before it crossed the goal line. The Louisburg back line of Benne, Kris Light, Kolten Ragan and Curran Conklin, along with Stefan, turned away several Cyclone scoring opportunities.

“Our defense has been doing that all year,” We have worked extremely hard, but we seem to give up some chances on inability to communicate at times. I honestly do not think they believe how well they are actually playing. The main back four and goalkeeper had given up only 15 goals all year; .937 goals against average and if I am not mistaken the majority of them if not all of them were not starters on last year’s team. That is a great improvement and a credit to their work ethic. I could not be happier for them.”

Six minutes into the second half, Ottawa was able to break through the Wildcat defense for a goal to tie the match at 1-all. However, instead of hanging their head, the Wildcats battled right back.

Four minutes later, senior Herman Knipp scored on an assist from junior Grant Ryals to put the Wildcats back in front and they would stay there. In the 54th minute, Louisburg sealed the win after senior Ty Martin floated a pass into the box and Juarez headed the ball into the net for the game’s final goal.

Noah Juarez heads the ball into the back of the net for Louisburg's third goal in the Wildcats' 3-1 win.

Noah Juarez heads the ball into the back of the net for Louisburg’s third goal in the Wildcats’ 3-1 win.

“Our team never quits,” Conley said. “Our goal is to never give up regardless how things are going and to play to the final whistle. This game was no different. The boys just kept working and playing hard. Since the beginning of the year, we have had a goal to never get outworked in a game. These young men have bought in and it reflects their play.”

Tuesday starts a new journey for the Wildcats when they begin Class 4-1A regional tournament action. No matter the outcome, it has been a special ride for Conley, who is in his first year with the program.

“The boys have worked so hard throughout the year to buy into my philosophy and my style of play,” Conley said. “As a coach I could not be prouder of a group of young men. They have fantastic work ethics and great character. This season can attest to that.”


Louisburg ties state-ranked Spring Hill

Louisburg senior defender Curran Conklin clears the ball away from the Wildcat goal Monday during the Wildcats’ match with Spring Hill in Louisburg. The Wildcats tied state-ranked Spring Hill 1-1.

A tie wasn’t the result Louisburg was looking for during Monday’s home match with Spring Hill.

However, the Wildcats didn’t leave the field with their heads down – in fact – it was the exact opposite. Louisburg pushed No. 4 Spring Hill to the limits, and after two overtime periods, the two teams ended in a 1-1 tie.

It was a big step forward for the Wildcats (10-4-1) that lost to the same Spring Hill team 3-0 earlier in the season.

“It was a 50-50 game,” Louisburg coach Kyle Conley said. “I think we had as many opportunities as they did, and in overtime we had much better looks. We just couldn’t finish them. It was a heck of an effort. The kids played hard, didn’t give up and just fought through everything. They just kept grinding and fighting and you really can’t be more proud of a team.”

The Wildcats did face some adversity as they found themselves down a goal early in the second half when the Broncos scored off a rebound. That didn’t seem to bother the Wildcats more, in fact, they turned up the intensity and provided themselves with a good look at the goal.

Senior Herman Knipp crossed the ball to freshman Landon Johnson, who was open on the back side, and Johnson found the back of the net to tie the match with 15 minutes left in regulation.

Landon Johnson celebrates his game-tying goal with teammates Grant Ryals (on back) and Herman Knipp on Monday in Louisburg.

Landon Johnson celebrates his game-tying goal with teammates Grant Ryals (on back) and Herman Knipp on Monday in Louisburg.

“Landon showed a lot of composure compared to a coach who was yelling at him to ‘Shoot, shoot , shoot’ about 15 times,” Conley said. “He had a ton of composure to slot it and find where it needed to be. It was cool to see a kid play above his level a little bit. We knew that back side was open, and when we finally got it there, he was able to slot it in.

“It was cool for him and a great moment for our team. It shows the will and determination that we have that we fought even harder after we gave up the lead.”

Prior to that, the Wildcats had several shots on goal, but were either saved or were just wide of the goal. Early in the second half, senior Noah Juarez played a ball to Johnson in the box but couldn’t convert on the shot.

Sophomore Jonathan Ventre had a shot saved on a breakaway opportunity and junior Grant Ryals also sent the ball into the box as diving Juarez tried to head the ball in, but to no avail. Juarez also had another opportunity to score late in the second half, but was thwarted by the Spring Hill defense.

Louisburg also turned up its defense as junior goalie Ambrose Stefan turned away three Spring Hill shots on goal in the final minutes.

“Ambrose made several great saves out there,” Conley said. “The goal that he gave up he knew he should have smothered, but he more than made up for the four or five saves that were just ridiculous. He played really hard and kept us in it to be quite honest. Without a couple of those saves it could be a 3-1 game instead of a tie.”

The Wildcats also received vital performances from its outside backs of seniors Jacob Benne and Curran Conklin. Both players had to deal with a persistent Spring Hill attack and help limited the Broncos’ chances as well.

“Jacob and Curran were fantastic,” Conley said. “Spring Hill just kept coming at them and those two just held their ground. They were able to stand their man up every time. The outside backs were just phenomenal out there. I don’t call out players or isolate groups very often, but those two young men did their job and kept us to where we had an opportunity to be in the game. I couldn’t be prouder of them.”

Drama continued into the overtime as the Wildcats had good looks at the goal. Louisburg appeared to have a great opportunity in the opening minutes of the first overtime as Ryals played the ball to Juarez in the box and had a one-on-one with the goal but couldn’t convert the shot.

Both teams each had more opportunities in the extra periods, but both team’s defenses didn’t break and the Wildcats walked off their home field with a tie against a state-ranked team and an undefeated home record.

“It was two teams just leaving it all out there and it was awesome,” Conley said. “It came down to a war of attrition there for a while and I was beginning to wonder how we were going to hold up. The kids didn’t give up and they weren’t going to get outworked. We made a goal at the beginning of the year to go undefeated at home and this solidified that. Both teams played really hard.”

Louisburg will travel to Ottawa tonight for its final regular season game before the Wildcats prepare for the postseason. The junior varsity will begin at 4:30 p.m., with the varsity to follow.

Wildcats down Eudora on senior night

Louisburg senior Noah Juarez dribbles past a Eudora defender Thursday in Louisburg. Juarez scored one of the Wildcats’ two goals in their 2-1 win over the Cardinals to move their record to 10-4 on the year.

One by one, the eight Louisburg seniors were introduced in front of the crowd Thursday before the Wildcats’ match with Eudora.

Jacob Benne, Calvin Cassida, Curran Conklin, Noah Juarez, Herman Knipp, Ty Martin, Kolten Ragan and manager Madisen Simpson were all recognized with their parents during senior night activities. It was night four years in the making.

As special as the pregame festivities were for the players, the result from the match made the night even better.

Louisburg jumped on Eudora early and was able to hold on for a 2-1 victory to run the Wildcats’ record to 10-4 on the season. Senior Noah Juarez scored the first goal on a penalty kick, while junior Raistlin Brewer added a goal early in the second half to help give the Wildcats the win.

The Louisburg soccer seniors are (front row, from left) manager Madisen Simpson, Ty Martin, Curran Conklin, Jacob Benne; (back row) Calvin Cassida, Kolten Ragan, Herman Knipp and Noah Juarez.

The Louisburg soccer seniors are (front row, from left) manager Madisen Simpson, Ty Martin, Curran Conklin, Jacob Benne; (back row) Calvin Cassida, Kolten Ragan, Herman Knipp and Noah Juarez.

“It was big and we needed the win,” Louisburg coach Kyle Conley said. “I think we played better than the 2-1 score, we just had a tough time finishing and we couldn’t get the ball in the net. Eudora’s goalie made some big saves too. We had countless breakaways and he always seemed to be in the right place.

“At the same time we need to find the back of the net. It keeps the team in it, they start believing then they get a goal with 14 minutes to go and it is anyone’s game. It is one of the games that was tighter than it needed to be.”

The positive result made for a good night for all involved, including the seven senior players as they know their time playing in their home stadium is coming to an end.

“This was definitely special,” Juarez said. “Playing on varsity since my freshman year, I didn’t get to play with some of my classmates right away, but this year playing with all of them has really meant a lot to me and has been fun. We are all talking together, making decisions and I think it is good to not have one set leader. I think the whole team looks up to us and that is how it should be.”

Junior midfielder Grant Ryals nearly gave the Wildcats a two-goal lead early in the contest, but his first shot sailed just wide of the goal. The second shot he took from 25 yards away, hit off a Eudora defender and then off the crossbar midway through the first half.

In the 28th minute, it was a pair of Wildcat seniors who teamed up to help give them a lead on senior night. Cassida received a pass in the box, and as he made a move toward the goal, he was fouled.

The foul set up a penalty kick for Juarez and he connected for a 1-0 lead for Louisburg and it stayed that way at halftime.

It didn’t take long after halftime for the Wildcats to find the back of the net again. Brewer got a pass from sophomore Jonathan Ventre and shot it past the Eudora goalie for a 2-0 lead.

Eudora managed to get back in it as the Cardinals continue to pressure Louisburg as it got a couple shots on goal and converted one with a goal with 13 minutes left. Louisburg goalie Ambrose Stefan also turned away a couple shots to keep the Wildcats in front.

Ty Martin looks up field on a breakaway opportunity at home Thursday against Eudora.

Ty Martin looks up field on a breakaway opportunity at home Thursday against Eudora.

“We couldn’t find feet and do anything right it seemed in that second half, but we were able to stick together,” Juarez said. “Our biggest problem is we couldn’t feet and we stopped talking, but we got the win and that is important.”

Conley was also happy to see his senior class go out with a win on senior night.

“It is a special group,” he said. “They all have a great attitudes and work ethics for the most part and they came ready to go. They keep it light, even when I get mad, they do a good job of cutting it up a little bit and taking the stress off. At the same time, when it is time to work they are ready to work. They are accountable, good young men, honest and you can’t ask for a better group.”

Louisburg will play its final regular season home match tonight when it hosts Spring Hill at 6 p.m., in a makeup contest. The Wildcats will finish the regular season Thursday in Ottawa.

“We are still fighting for a 2 or 3 seed in the region and some wins will help us get there,” Conley said. “We have to get the win and get to 11 or 12 wins and see what happen. Eleven or 12 wins is a really good regular season and that was our goal at the beginning of the year.”


Wildcats fall in Baldwin

The Louisburg boys soccer team was hoping for a sweep of Baldwin on Oct. 11 when the Wildcats traveled to Baldwin City.

Unfortunately, the Wildcats were unable to dig themselves out of an early hole in a 2-1 loss to Baldwin. The Bulldogs scored a first half goal to grab a 1-0 lead at halftime and then scored on an own goal on a corner kick early in the second half.

Senior Noah Juarez broke up the shutout late in the second half with a goal, but the Wildcats couldn’t get closer. The Wildcat defense played well as they limited the Bulldogs to three shots on goal

“It was frustrating, but the boys did play well,” Conley said. “We just didn’t finish. We possessed the ball well, had lots of chances, but unfortunately we couldn’t finish our chances. We had three to four breakaway opportunities that we could not capitalize on. The conditions were extremely wet and it was difficult for both teams to use the width of the field. The boys worked hard though.”

Brewer’s goal lifts Louisburg past De Soto in overtime

Louisburg junior goalie Ambrose Stefan comes out of goal to make a diving save early in the match Friday against De Soto in Louisburg. The Wildcats defeated De Soto in overtime 1-0 on a goal from Raistlin Brewer. 

For 80 minutes, Louisburg found itself knotted in a scoreless match with Frontier League leader De Soto.

Louisburg needed a win to stay in the race for the league title and wanted revenge for a tough loss earlier in the season.

It took less than a minute in the overtime for all that to come to fruition.

Junior Raistlin Brewer scored 59 seconds into the extra period to give the Wildcats a 1-0 victory Friday at home over De Soto as they stayed alive in the league title race after falling to current league-leader Spring Hill earlier in the week. Spring Hill and De Soto were tied in the league standings heading into the contest.

The win was also the first time the Louisburg senior class had ever notched a positive result over De Soto in their four years. Earlier in the season, the Wildcats fell to De Soto by the same score in what was a weather-shortened game.

“This was kind of redemption for us in how we felt the first game ended,” Louisburg coach Kyle Conley said. “By the boys winning, it gives us an amazing amount of confidence especially after losing to Spring Hill. By beating De Soto it actually gives us an ability to control our own destiny with our four regular season games left.”

Raistlin Brewer heads the ball away Friday during Louisburg's home match with De Soto.

Raistlin Brewer heads the ball away Friday during Louisburg’s home match with De Soto.

Louisburg (9-3) had a few opportunities to score on De Soto in regulation, but its best one came in the overtime and Brewer made sure he took advantage. Brewer attacked toward the goal after he received a through ball, played it off toward the middle, the ball got back to Brewer and he took the shot that hit the back of the net.

“Brewer’s goal was fantastic,” Conley said. “He has been so close so many times, but I couldn’t have asked for a better time to get one. The boys all just kept fighting and grinding. They didn’t give up and played with such desire.”

De Soto, which outshot Louisburg 5-3 for the game, was on the attack early as it took several shots on the Louisburg defense and the Wildcats got a pair of nice saves from goalie Ambrose Stefan early on. Louisburg limited De Soto’s chances after the first 20 minutes and was able to keep the game scoreless thanks to the Wildcat defense of Curran Conklin, Kris Light, Jacob Benne, Kolten Ragan, Scott Murphy and Calvin Cassida. Stefan also earned the shutout.

“After about the first 20 minutes, we settled down and pushed a bit more,” Conley said. “The majority of the game was played between the 18’s. They did take a lot of shots, but the majority of them were 30 yards out or so and didn’t pose much of a threat. They did have two really good looks early but Stefan made two quality saves. The defense played with a ‘bend but don’t break’ mentality. I couldn’t have been prouder of the way the boys played.”

Louisburg is currently tied with De Soto for second-place in the Frontier League standings with four regular season games remaining. Spring Hill is one game up on both teams, but the Wildcats will get another shot at the Broncos later in the season.

The Wildcats returned to action today when it traveled to Baldwin this afternoon, but they return home Thursday for senior night against Eudora. The varsity is set to begin at approximately 6 p.m.


Spring Hill shutouts Louisburg

Louisburg traveled to Spring Hill on Oct. 4 as it began the week tied with Spring Hill and De Soto for first-place in the Frontier League.

The Wildcats had both teams slated on its schedule for the week and they started with the Broncos. Unfortunately, it didn’t get off to the best of start for Louisburg as it fell to Spring Hill 3-0.

The Broncos took control in the second half and scored two goals to pull away from the Wildcats. Spring Hill broke open a scoreless game eight minutes into the first half with a goal, and despite chances to score several minutes later, Louisburg couldn’t get on the board.

“It was a frustrating game for us,” Louisburg coach Kyle Conley said. “We played very even in the first half in fact had several quality opportunities, but the second half we struggled to find feet and didn’t play our game. They scored three goals, but I felt two of which were soft by our standards. They are such a quality team, play hard and are a very experienced squad. We will play much better the next time we play them.”

Knipp notches hat trick in win over Paola

Senior Herman Knipp (right) celebrates one of his three goals with Noah Juarez during Thursday’s league match in Paola. The Wildcats defeated Paola 5-0 to improve their record to 8-2 on the season.

PAOLA – It took Herman Knipp less than three minutes to put Paola on its heels and the rest of the Louisburg High School boys soccer team was able to deliver the knockout blow.

Knipp scored two goals in under three minutes and helped the Wildcats to a 5-0 victory over their rival Thursday in Paola. In turn, Louisburg improved its record to 8-2 on the season and have now won four straight games.

“Rivalry games are tough,” Louisburg coach Kyle Conley said. “Paola is much better than their record (0-10) shows and they play so hard. We preached all day that we can’t get outworked and we have to get all over them. We kept high-pressuring them and we got two really good looks early. That just got us going and then we could relax a little.”

Eric Vazquez heads the ball away during Thursday's game against Paola.

Eric Vazquez heads the ball away during Thursday’s game against Paola.

Two minutes into the match, Knipp put Louisburg on the board with a goal and then seconds later added another score on an assist from Scott Murphy. The scored stayed 2-0 at halftime, but the Wildcats were far from done scoring.

Senior Noah Juarez found the back of the net early in the second half to put the Wildcats up three goals and Knipp then finished off what was his best game of the season. Knipp recorded his first hat trick as he tallied his third goal with 13 minutes left in the match.

“It felt absolutely amazing,” Knipp said.  “After getting the two in the first couple of minutes, I was pushing the whole game to get my third and possibly a fourth. It feels great.

“I think we played as a team a lot better than we did the first time against Paola. We really worked more as a unit than we did individually. We passed the ball and made everything work together like it should.”

Junior Raistlin Brewer capped the scoring with a goal in the final minutes to seal the win for the Wildcats. Freshman Landon Johnson, senior Curran Conklin and Juarez also had assists in the victory.

The score could have been even more lopsided as the Wildcats peppered the Paola defense with several shots on goal. Sophomore Jonathan Ventre, senior Ty Martin, junior Grant Ryals and Juarez also had shots that were saved, or sailed just wide of the net.

Although it wasn’t tested much, the Wildcat defense of Kris Light, Jacob Benne, Conklin and Kolten Ragan and Calvin Cassida limited Paola’s chances, while goalies Ambrose Stefan and Ignacio Huesa combined for the shutout. The Louisburg defense hasn’t given up a goal in four straight matches.

“The back line is talking a lot and working well,” Conley said. “We have a lot of kids playing a lot of minutes, which I like because I want them to gel a little bit because some of them are playing positions they haven’t played before. We are playing really good right now.”

The Wildcats have found a lot of success on the pitch as they have already eclipsed last year’s seven win total with five games remaining left in the regular season.

Sophomore Jonathan Ventre has his eyes on the goal for a breakaway Thursday in Paola.

Sophomore Jonathan Ventre has his eyes on the goal for a breakaway Thursday in Paola.

“I think the boys have had chips on their shoulder this season because they thought they let games get away last year that they should have won,” Conley said. “We are just focused and the guys are fired up right now. We just keeping pushing them and they keep responding. We are getting some great results and playing good soccer right now.”

The games will get more important quickly for the Wildcats. Louisburg, Spring Hill and De Soto are all tied atop the Frontier League standings with one loss each.

Louisburg will travel to Spring Hill on Tuesday and then will host De Soto on Friday in a week that could help determine the league champion.

“Spring Hill is going to be the biggest game of the year for us,” Conley said. “You could say that it could be for the league title. Spring Hill, us and De Soto each have just one loss so it is wide open. We just have to take care of business and see what happens and hope things fall our way.”


Louisburg downs Tonganoxie in overtime

In regulation, neither team wanted to give in. The match between Louisburg and Tonganoxie was a scoreless one after 80 minutes on Sept. 27 at Tonganoxie High School.

However, less than a minute into the overtime, Louisburg senior Noah Juarez decided he had enough.

The Wildcat midfielder got the ball on the 18, beat two defenders and flicked the ball past the Tonganoxie goalkeeper for the game-winning goal. It left many on the Wildcat sideline stunned.

“The kids didn’t know how to react in an overtime game and I told them just to run out there,” Louisburg coach Kyle Conley said. “They all went and dogpiled him and it was cool to see.”

Louisburg went up against a Tonganoxie team that featured a big, strong midfield, but the Wildcats were able to outshoot the Chieftains 8-2 on shots on goal in regulation. However, it took just one to win the game in overtime and defeat a Tonganoxie team that won eight of its first nine games.

“Tonganoxie is a physical, strong and fast team,” Conley said. “Their midfield is probably one of the best midfields we have seen all year. The first 20 minutes we were on our heels a little bit, but then we just took over and we had good chance after good chance.”


JV wins pair of games

The Louisburg High School junior varsity soccer team earned a pair of shutouts last week as it defeated Paola 2-0 on Thursday and also downed Tonganoxie 6-0 on Sept. 27.

Against Paola, Chris Williams broke open a scoreless game with a goal in the second half and Jarod Rose followed with another to get the win for the Wildcats. Eli Minster had an assist, while Ignacio Huesa and Thomas Arnett combined for the shutout.

Minster had a big game against Tonganoxie as he had two goals and two assists in the win. Jacob Anderson, Jon Paul Totta and Rose also scored for the Wildcats. Huesa and Arnett once again combined for the shutout.