It just wasn’t the Titans’ day on the turf of Morrison Stadium. Unfortunately, the day came in the first round of the Class A State Tournament.
A few defensive breakdowns in the first half led to a 4-2 loss for the No. 8 seed Papio South against No. 1 seed Omaha South on May 8th for the Titans’ season to end with a 12-7 record.
“I liked what we did most of the game,” Papio South coach Dave Lawrence said. “We made three defensive errors that led to three goals. Exactly what we did last time we played them.
“(Omaha South) is such a great team that when you make an error they capitalize on it.”
The rain stopped in the opening minutes of the game, but not before Omaha South took advantage of the first defensive breakdown for the Titans. After Papio South missed an opportunity for a goal, Omaha South took the ball right down the field to score on 2-on-1 advantage for a 1-0 lead in the fifth minute.
Omaha South added another score in the 19th minute before extending their lead to 3-0, seven minutes later.
“One of them was created, but two of them were absolutely our fault,” Lawrence said. “We basically just gave them the ball and let them shoot it. They were definite errors. Without those two blunders, it’s a 2-2 game going into the second half.”
In response, Papio South moved the ball into the offensive zone and came up with a score. A shot by Braeden Paiz deflected off a Packer defender into the net for the Titans to cut the lead to 3-1 in the 27th minute.
Five minutes later, Papio South’s Jackson Redd came up with a big goal from 25-yards out to cut the Packer lead to 3-2.
“Our guys have heart. They keep fighting no matter what,” Lawrence said. “We’ve learned throughout the year that when we fall, we come back. They have confidence in those situations. They don’t give up, but South is a very good team.”
As momentum shifted towards the Titans, Omaha South responded with an answer. The Packers notched a score with six minutes left in the half to lead 4-2 at halftime.
Papio South made adjustments at halftime to play a stronger second half without any breakdowns. The Titans and goalie Zach Selph shutout South in the second half, but couldn’t find the net themselves for a 4-2 finish.
“That’s been our crutch all year. All year we’ve had trouble starting games,” Lawrence said. “Then we settle down. I don’t know if it’s nerves because we’re still fairly young. Hopefully we lose some of those nerves that these guys have played in some big games now.”
Despite surrendering four goals, Selph made some crucial stops throughout the game, especially, in the second half to keep the Titans in the game. His save in the 32nd minute and two saves in the 56th minute were the three most crucial saves of his eight.
The silver lining for the Titans is they scored twice on the Packers, who only allowed two goals twice this season before the matchup. In a win against Millard North and in a loss to Creighton Prep.
“They’re hard to create offensively against them. Their defenders move together so well,” Lawrence said.
It’s a piece of momentum the Titans can take into the offseason for a group that returns 10 starters and graduates only four seniors. Despite losing in a shootout in the district final and earning a wildcard bid, Papio South’s first step was experiencing the state tournament for the first time since 2013.
Furthermore of the 22 players on this years team, 13 of them are juniors. So, for the Titans, the next step is to use the experienced gained and make a splash in 2020 with a big senior class.
“It’s setting up for next year. Next year, we would really like to make a run at it. This group of juniors I have is a special group of kids,” Lawrence said. “They have heart, they have skill, and they work harder than any group I’ve had. So it was important to get here and be on the big stage this year.
“We’ll be back next year.”