By RICK PETERSON
Washburn Rural's soccer team certainly didn't plan on or want to be playing in Saturdays Class 6A third-place game.
But once the Junior Blues were forced into that situation they made the most of it, taking a dramatic last-minute 2-1 win over Dodge City at Hummer Sports Park.
The Junior Blues, who finished off a 19-2 season, began and ended things with a flourish, scoring just 1:26 into the contest and then breaking a 1-1 tie on a goal from senior Griffin Heinen off a corner kick from fellow upperclassman Devon Rutschmann with 56 seconds remaining.
"Third feels a lot better than fourth, I'll say that,'' Heinen said. "The three years I've been on varsity, sophomore year we took second and that was heartbreaking. Last year we took fourth and lost to these guys in the consolation game. I'll take third over fourth any day.
"I think this group of guys just loves the environment, loves Washburn, and we have 11 seniors on this team and they're not ready to leave it, especially the younger guys behind, so I think we were just excited for one more game with everybody.''
Washburn Rural, which dropped a 2-0 semifinal decision to Shawnee Mission West on Friday, jumped in front 1-0 on a goal from senior Hayden Shriver off Heinen's assist.
"Soccer's a crazy game,'' Rural coach Brian Hensyel said. "Some nights you work hard and the ball won't goal in the net. It hits the post and all kinds of weird things happen and then you come out the next day and you dunk one 60 seconds into the game.
"It's a weird sport. What we told them is, 'Just give us 80 minutes of the best you've got,' and it was evident from a goal in the first minute and a goal in the last minute and 78 good minutes in the middle where we just worked our butts off.''
Dodge City, which lost a 3-2 overtime decision to Olathe East on Friday, evened the score at the 19:12 mark of the first half on a goal from senior Aron Martinez.
The Dodge City goal began a 58-minute scoreless streak, but with overtime looming, Rutschmann found Heinen for the game-winning goal.
Heinen's goal reversed the outcome of the 2022 third-place game, when Dodge City took a 2-1 win over the Junior Blues, and sends Rural's seniors out with a victory.
I'm really, really proud of the guys,'' Hensyel said. "It wasn't the game we wanted to be in. We wanted to be playing a couple hours later. We thought we had a team that could win the state championship this year but 19-2, we've only got a couple of teams that's ever done better than that.
"The reality is, and we've been here a bunch of times, at the end you have four really good teams and if we played this tournament next weekend it might be a completely different result because that's the sport of soccer. So we came here, we gave it our best shot, we had an amazing season and our senior class were the leaders. Those 11 boys were outstanding students first and athletes second and that's why Washburn Rural had a great season this year.''
CLASS 6A STATE SOCCER
WASHBURN RURAL 2, DODGE CITY 1
Dodge City (18-3-0) 1 0 -- 1
Washburn Rural (19-2-0) 1 1 -- 2
Dodge City -- Goal: Aron Martinez.
Washburn Rural -- Goals: Hayden Shriver, Griffin Heinen. Assists: Griffin Heinen, Devon Rutschmann.