Mahmoud Abu Zareefeh sends SM North boys soccer past Leavenworth in double-overtime
OVERLAND PARK — Crunch time has been the best time for the Shawnee Mission North boys soccer team through its first three matches of the season.
After Elliott Chambon scored with 15 seconds left to power the Indians to a 1-0 win over Shawnee Mission South on Aug. 30, it was Mahmoud Abu Zareefeh’s turn to take center stage on Thursday against Leavenworth. The SM North junior blasted a shot from 25 yards out that deflected off of the goalie Andy Scanlon’s hands and into the upper 90 to lift the Indians to a 2-1 double-overtime victory against the Pioneers.
“I actually thought it was out or going to hit the crossbar because he hit it and it just went so high up,” Zareefeh said. “I looked and I just got so surprised. When it got in everybody just jumped and I’m liked, ‘Oh, it’s in? Oh, it’s in!”
The Indians had hoped that they wouldn’t need extra time to upend Leavenworth, but they also felt fortunate at the same time. North senior forward Sam Goldman gave the Indians a spark after scoring in the 45th minute to break a scoreless tie. The 1-0 lead held for the next 25 minutes.
“Victor (Bideau) crossed the ball in. It went right over my man that was marking me,” Goldman said. “I saw it in the air and made solid contact and put it in the back of the net.”
Leavenworth had a golden opportunity to pull level in the 53rd minute when they were awarded a free kick just inches outside of the box. While the Indians avoided facing a Leavenworth penalty, North senior defender Sam Cramer was saddled with a yellow card. The Indians fended off the free kick, as junior goalie Blake Taylor punched the ball away for the save.
At one point late in the summer, Taylor had his mind set on dedicating the fall sports season strictly to cross country rather than playing between the pipes for the North soccer team. Taylor made an immediate impact in Thursday’s match with a diving save in the first 10 minutes to keep the Pioneers on the board. However, there were also a few communication breakdowns between Taylor and the back line. All in all, head coach Jaime Velez is glad to have Taylor playing behind an experienced back line.
“He wasn’t wanting to do soccer this year, and I’m pretty sure he would’ve regretted the decision because he’s playing unbelievable,” Velez said. “He’s enjoying it. He’s happy. He’s really enjoying everything right now.”
The Pioneers kept the pressure on the Indians as the second half went on, and it paid off when Colby Lohgry tucked a shot inside the near post with 9:38 remaining in regulation.
Momentum continued to swing in favor of the Pioneers when Cramer was sent off after receiving a second yellow card with just less than six minutes to go. The Indians were able to weather the storm despite playing a man down for the rest of regulation.
“It’s great to see that the kids don’t give up even when they’re down one player,” Velez said. “They fought every single play and we got the win. That was unbelievable.”
The physicality of the match also had Leavenworth’s Cody Sanders playing on a yellow card going into overtime. Sanders was whistled for a second yellow late in the first 10-minute period of extra time that also forced the Pioneers to play with 10 men the rest of the way.
The Indians gained some of the confidence back after Sanders was sent off, and it showed in double-overtime. Zareefeh’s goal kept the Indians undefeated with a record of 3-0.
“It was really hard for us to keep going forward. We just fought to hold the ball and keep it a tie,” Zareefeh said. “But then in the second half of the extra time, we just thought to go in and score a goal. We just had the idea of scoring a goal in the second half.”
After struggling to manufacture goal-scoring opportunities in the attacking third for much of last season, the Indians have scored five goals through their first three games.
“We’re just playing well together. We’re all connected with chemistry outside of school,” Goldman said. “We all talk to each other. We’re all friends. We’re all getting along, and last year it wasn’t like that so I think that’s the main difference.”
While Goldman has been making his presence felt up top, the other four seniors have been making it tough on opposing teams to score — only allowing two goals through three games. Cramer, Jack Spencer and Christian Lipari have led the way on the back line, and Will Baldwin has been right in front of them at defensive center mid.
“Right now we’re winning. They’ve got the idea,” Velez said. “Everything has been a process and those guys have been a part of the process every single day.”
North will try to push its record to 3-0 at 7 p.m. Tuesday with a home match against Free State.
“It feels great,” Goldman said. “I mean we’ve been waiting all four years for this. It’s just a really good feeling to finally be winning games.”