Class A: Braeden Evans' late goal helps Wildcats hold off Lincoln North Star

Lincoln North Star's Mirzad Osmanovic goes after the ball against Millard West defenders Caden Frank, right, and Reece Isenberg in the first half.

The third time was the charm Wednesday for Millard West’s boys soccer team, giving the Wildcats a second chance at No. 1.

Class A No. 7 Millard West saw a pair of leads disappear before finishing off fifth-ranked Lincoln North Star 3-2 in the first round of the state tournament at Creighton’s Morrison Stadium.

The win gets the Wildcats a rematch with top-ranked Omaha Westside in Friday’s 8 p.m. semifinal. The Warriors poured it on Millard West 6-2 when the teams played earlier in the year.

“This group refuses to quit,” Wildcats coach Michael Doria said. “We’ve been in a lot of close games. This has kind of been the M.O. So they’re used to being in this environment.”

Millard West went up in the 10th minute when senior forward Caden Frank struck a rebound near the top of the box firmly through traffic.

It took less than two minutes for North Star to level things on the first of two Jonathan Velasquez goals.

Freshman forward Nathan Bauermeister put the Wildcats back in front midway through the half, hustling to a ball that appeared to carom off North Star keeper Nathan Enriquez and a defender before going in.

“We did things on defense that we didn’t do all year,” Navigators coach Jason Brunott said. “We had a couple of breakdowns and gave up some easy goals. We really didn’t do that this season.”

His team wasn’t done, though. Velasquez struck for another equalizer, this time a left-footed shot from distance that went off the right post and in.

The Wildcats had one more go-ahead score left in them. With just less than 17 minutes remaining, Frank made a perfect cross to sophomore midfielder Braedan Evans, who was waiting on the backdoor to deposit the winner.

“It’s being smart. It’s being in position,” Doria said of Evans’ goal. “And then it’s having the vision to look up and connect a pass, and that’s all it was. We just connected a pass and then it went into the back of the net.”

The Wildcats are in their third straight semifinal. They lost 3-0 to Omaha Creighton Prep there a season ago. Doria said his team fully understands the challenge looming on Friday night.

“The biggest thing against a team like Westside is that you’ve got to come out and match their intensity,” he said. “If we don’t do that, we won’t stand a chance. But if we come out, match the intensity and play 80 minutes all the way to the whistle, I like our chances.”

Millard West (13-7).....................2 1—3

Lincoln North Star (15-4)............1 1­—2

Goals: MW, Caden Frank, Nathan Bauermeister, Braedan Evans; LNS, Jonathan Velasquez 2.

Nick covers high school soccer, wrestling and other sports for The World-Herald.

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