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When Jake Prather first joined the Olathe East Hawks soccer team in August at the start of his freshman year, he didnt expect to be wheeling toward a packed set of bleachers celebrating a goal in the Kansas 6A state championship game.
But on Saturday afternoon at the College Boulevard Activity Center in Olathe, Prather was doing just that as he buried the ball into the bottom right corner of the goal to give Olathe East an early 1-0 lead over Manhattan in the 6A state championship game.
We worked so hard all year, this is amazing, Prather said. I just got the help from all my teammates, set me up perfectly and I got my chance.
Prathers goal was the first of three goals in a 3-0 rout by Olathe East to cut short Manhattans incredible run to its first-ever championship game.
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Despite Manhattan entering the championship game with a record of 16-2-0, it never really looked to be able to compete against Olathe East, which played an extremely disciplined and compact game in the middle of the park.
Weve done it all postseason — we come in, we play 4-2-3-1, we dont let them get by, said senior defender and team captain Connor Young. And its just a team effort at that point.
Youngs efforts anchoring down the backline for Olathe East resulted in Manhattan rattling off just four shots the entire game, with only one of those shots on target.
With Young and the rest of the backline holding strong, the Hawks forwards did their job at their end of the field too.
The first goal of the game came in the 16th minute, when Manhattan sophomore goalkeeper Caleb Deloach was unable to reign in a corner. The resulting dropped ball bounced off the post before Prather was there to place it home to the delight of the packed bleachers.
Thats rookie of the year, said Olathe East head coach Terry Hair. Thats a young man that has played big. Hes an iron man, doesnt come off the field, and he plays as a varsity starter, not as a freshman puppy.
Olathe East scored its other two goals in the second half thanks to an open header off a corner by senior midfielder Parker Esparza in the 55th minute and a well-placed finish after beating a couple of defenders by sophomore forward Walker Bond in the 73rd minute.
The victory for Olathe East marks the end of a period of heartbreak for several players, including Young, with the team having made it to the final four of the state tournament three of the past four years. In 2015 the Hawks finished 4th overall, and in 2016 they lost to Dodge City in the championship game.
This is my third time here and weve never won, Young said. To be able to take a team and win is the best feeling that I could ever ask for.
In the third-place game, Shawnee Mission East defeated Derby, 2-0, thanks to goals from senior forward Eren Eksinar and senior midfielder Conor OToole.