By RICK PETERSON
By coach Brian Hensyel's own admission, Washburn Rural wasn't at its best in Tuesday's Class 6A soccer quarterfinal against Garden City.
But the Junior Blues were good enough.
Washburn Rural was pushed to overtime by Garden City, but sophomore Draden Chooncharoen scored the game-winning goal at the 3:10 mark of the first overtime period off an assist from senior Devon Rutschmann to give the Junior Blues a 2-1 victory over the Buffaloes at McElroy Field.
"We did not have our best performance tonight,'' Hensyel said. "Hats off to Garden City. They had a good game plan -- they kind of jammed the middle on us -- but every (playoff) run we've made in the past there's always kind of been one ugly game. That's also sometimes the sport of soccer, it's hard to finish. We had our chances in the first half to break it open and we couldn't do it.
"We let them hang around and we let them hang around and they found a goal. To our credit, we kept telling the guys, we've got to get the ball to certain people's feet and let them go to work. We did that with Devon and all year we've been preaching if we attack the end line and put balls across the box it's just hustling to get near the box and the guy that hustles more than anybody on this team is Draden Chooncharoen, and as soon as that ball came across, he was beating everybody to that ball.''
With Tuesday's win Washburn Rural improved to 18-1-0 on the season entering Friday's 6:30 p.m. state semifinal against Shawnee Mission West (14-3-2) at Hummer Sports Park.
Washburn Rural, which remained unbeaten against Kansas competition, took a 1-0 lead at the 6:55 mark of the first half on a goal from senior Lawsen Lobatos-Dick off a Rutschmann assist.
That goal stood up through halftime and for much of the second half before Garden City (12-5-2) pulled even on a shot from senior Joshua Negon at the 18:06 mark of the second half, shortly after Washburn Rural had a goal wiped out by an offsides call.
The score remained knotted at 1-1 through the end of regulation before Chooncharoen ended it.
"I know when Devon gets the ball on the endline I've got to go for the goal so when that ball came I knew I had to finish it,'' Chooncharoen said. "He placed it where I needed it. He knew where I was going at the right time.''
The scariest part for Chooncharoen many have been surviving the Rural dogpile that ensued after his shot went in the goal.
"It was cool, but I couldn't breathe after a good amount of people fell on me,'' Chooncharoen said. "I was a little scared, but if felt good.''
Dodge City (18-1-0) will face Olathe East (15-4-0) in Friday's first semifinal at 4 p.m., with the semifinal winners advancing to Saturday's 3 p.m. championship game. The third-place game will be played at 12 p.m.
WASHBURN RURAL 2, GARDEN CITY 1 (OT)
Garden City (12-5-2) 0 1 0 -- 1
Washburn Rural (18-1-0) 1 0 1 -- 2
Garden City -- Goal: Joshua Negron.
Washburn Rural -- Goals: Lawsen Lobatos-Dick, Draden Chooncharoen. Assists: Devon Rutschmann 2.