Sporting KC MLS Western Conference champs

Forward Daniel Salloi netted the game-winning shot in the 72nd minute of Sunday’s match between Sporting KC and Los Angeles FC. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

When defender Seth Sinovic was called for a questionable hand ball in the penalty area in the second half of Sunday afternoon’s game against Los Angeles FC, Sporting Kansas City’s plan to win first place in the Western Conference took a left turn.

The foul gave LAFC a game-tying penalty kick, Sinovic was sent off with a red card, and Sporting faced the rest of the game with only 10 on the field.

Sporting came back with a late short-handed goal by Daniel Salloi to earn the 2-1 win and the conference championship.

Kansas City could have chosen to pack the defensive end and play for the tie, which would have been enough to secure the conference lead, but head coach Peter Vermes saw it differently.

“I don’t think you can,” he said. “Mentality is a really interesting thing. It’s not like you just flip a switch and you just change mentality. It’s not that way.”

Salloi agreed. “I think it’s very important to play for a win all the time, even if a tie works for you, especially at home. I want to thank the fans because they did an amazing job.”

Khiry Shelton got the assist on the goal. As Salloi described it, “I played the ball out wide to Khiry and then he saw me running up the box. He played me a perfect ball. I took a quick touch and finished to the first post.”

As conference champions, Sporting KC will have a bye in the first round of the playoffs. They’ll face the winner of the “Knockout Round” game between LAFC and Real Salt Lake. The second game of the two-legged playoff will be at Children’s Mercy Park on Nov. 11.

Forward Daniel Salloi jumped into the Cauldron fan area after the game and beat the drum. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Fans celebrated after Salloi’s game-winning goal. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Fans celebrated after Salloi’s game-winning goal. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
A child’s view of Children’s Mercy Park. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Goalkeeper Tim Melia made a save. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Participants in the Sporting Stripes youth program took the field at halftime. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Forward Johnny Russell and LA defender Steven Beitashour took a moment to get up after getting tangled near the LA goal. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Forward Khiry Shelton celebrated the game’s first goal. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Defender Grahm Zusi worked against LA forward Diego Rossi. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Midfielder Roger Espinoza put SKC on top 1-0 in the first half. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Forward Johnny Russell beat LA defender Walker Zimmerman. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

Pirates’ red zone defense seals 46-40 playoff win

Piper sophomore running back Le’James White (12) scored one of his five rushing touchdowns on a run up the right sideline. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

With the game in the balance and 20 seconds on the clock, the Piper Pirates’ defense held the line against the Bonner Braves’ rush. The fourth-down red zone stop turned aside a Bonner comeback attempt, and earned the Pirates a berth in the next round of the playoffs.

Just a week after Braves and Pirates played against each other in the final game of the regular season, they found themselves matched up again in the first round of the KSHSAA 4A state tournament.

The previous game ended in a Piper rout, and the first quarter of the playoff game looked like it would follow. Piper racked up a 19-0 lead by the end of the first quarter on the strength of three Le’James White touchdown runs.

Bonner Springs started its comeback in the second quarter and scored 21 unanswered points before and after halftime. Johnathon Tapia scored on a goal-line quarterback keeper just before the half, and Bryce Krone picked up two touchdown runs in the third quarter.

The atmosphere was raucous, with the home and visitor stands cheering on their sides loudly. Bonner Springs tied the score at 40 with 6 minutes remaining on a pass from Noah Villarreal to Keyon Thomas. Piper retook the lead with another Le’James White touchdown run with only 2 minutes left, but kept the door open for a game-winning Bonner drive when their extra point attempt failed.

Bonner Springs looked poised to seize the opportunity and marched down the field fueled by Bryce Krone runs that kept moving the chains. The drive stalled out as the Braves’ offense approached the end zone, and Bonner Springs faced fourth-and-3 at the 6-yard line and only 20 seconds on the clock.

Bonner Springs turned to Krone once again on a run up the middle, but the Piper defensive line gave him only 2 1/2 yards. A jubilant cheer went up from the Piper sideline as the Bonner fans fell quiet. The Pirates took over and downed the ball one last time to run out the clock.

The Bonner Springs Braves closed out their season at 5-5, finishing fifth in their first season in the Frontier League.

Piper will play in the regional final game next Friday evening at Louisburg, the No. 1 seed in the eastern bracket of the playoffs.

The Piper football team charged onto the field before the game. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
The Bonner Springs marching band and drill team performed Disney movie songs, including “Beauty and the Beast.” (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Bonner Springs senior quarterback Noah Villarreal (8) laid out on a touchdown run. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Piper senior quarterback Dalton White (10) released a pass. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Piper senior offensive lineman LeMoses White (59) cleared a path for Le’James White. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Bonner Springs senior receiver Keyon Thomas (3) gained big yardage on a run around the right side. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
The Bonner Springs cheerleaders reacted to the Braves game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Dalton White accelerated away from the Braves’ defense on a long run. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Bonner Springs junior receiver Ethan Byers (14) caught a touchdown pass in the second quarter. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
The Piper team headed to the sidelines after the game to thank their fans. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
The Piper defense held up Bonner Springs junior running back Bryce Krone (19) on the decisive play of the fourth quarter. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

Sabres foil late Harmon upset bid, 26-20

Harmon junior running back Quincy Adams (33) scored from 5 yards out in the first quarter. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)

by Brian Turrel

The Sumner Academy Sabres needed some late-game heroics from their offense and their defense to overcome the Harmon Hawks’ fourth quarter comeback attempt on Friday evening. Nahshon Houston’s touchdown with 2 1/2 minutes to go gave Sumner the 26-20 victory.

Harmon struck first with a 3-yard touchdown run by Quincy Adams in the first quarter. A long pass to tight end Evan Wyatt was the key play in the drive.

The teams traded fumbles of the rain-slicked ball back and forth into the second quarter, which prevented either one from making a serious challenge.

Sumner got even midway through the second quarter on a Dominic Lee quarterback keeper for a touchdown. Malachi Moore’s run to the half-yard line set up the score.

Taking advantage of a Harmon fumble, Sumner took the lead on a 35-yard touchdown pass from Lee to receiver Donny Bagley with 3 1/2 minutes left in the half.

Sumner had the opportunity for another touchdown to close the half, but they were unable to connect on three pass attempts and a field goal try from the 20-yard line. The half ended with a 13-6 Sumner advantage.

Moore gave the Sabres a two-touchdown advantage with a 22-yard touchdown run with 8 minutes left in the third quarter.

The Hawks pulled closer on a 3-yard touchdown run by Terrance Johnson near the end of the third quarter that made the score 20-12.

Harmon evened the score at 20 with 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. Trevontae Rushing returned an interception 80 yards, and Harmon succeeded on the two-point conversion run by Adams.

On the following drive, the Sabres strung together runs from Moore and Houston to march quickly down the field. Houston picked up the game-winning score on a 3-yard run over the right side of his offensive line. An interception by Moore shut down Harmon’s drive.

Sumner’s record in the Kansas City – Atchison League improved to 2-2 (4-3 overall). They will play their final home game of the season against Atchison on Thursday evening at Schlagle Stadium. The Hawks fall to 0-4 in the league (0-7 overall). They will play at Wyandotte on Friday evening at 7 p.m.

Harmon junior tight end Evan Wyatt (32) caught a long pass over the middle to set up the Hawks’ first touchdown. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
The cold, drizzling rain made cheering more challenging. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Junior running back Malachi Moore (28) got some blocking help from senior lineman Dallas Burton (52) on his 22-yard touchdown run. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Harmon senior quarterback Terrance Johnson (1) was run out of bounds by Sumner senior defensive back Marcus Davis (15). (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
The Sumner dance team and marching band performed at halftime. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
The Sumner marching band performed at halftime. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Harmon linebacker Trevontae Rushing (8) grabbed an interception and returned it for a touchdown, tying the score in the fourth quarter. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
The Harmon cheerleaders celebrated the game-tying touchdown. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Sumner senior receiver Donny Bagley reeled in a 22-yard touchdown pass. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Sumner junior running back Malachi Moore (28) tried to shake a tackle by Harmon junior linebacker Isiah Rush. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)
Sumner senior running back Nahshon Houston (10) was pushed out of bounds after a long run in the first quarter. (Photo copyright 2018 by Brian Turrel)