Leading scorer Bryce Hague nets goal at 1:04, another six minutes later, as CHS boys assure themselves at least a .500 final record

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Chillicothe High School’s soccer Hornets wasted little time Thursday assuring themselves of an enjoyable “Senior Day” match and, at least, break-even 2017 season.
Needing to win their regular-season and home finale against Savannah to make sure they’d post a .500 final mark or better, the Hornets and senior Bryce Hague struck for two goals in the first 7:12 and rolled on to a 5-0 Midland Empire Conference victory.
The triumph, in which two more of the team’s eight seniors – Gavin Seeley and Adam Palasti – also found the back of the net, gives CHS a 10-9-1 overall mark going into next Monday’s Class 2 District 15 tournament opener against Moberly. That 4-teams tournament will be played at Cameron.
With senior goalkeeper Drew Toedebusch and the Hornets both posting their sixth shutout of 2017, CHS concluded league play this fall with a winning mark, too, going 4-3.
Rounding out the Hornets’ group of goal scorers Thursday was freshman Mason Baxter.
“A great way to end the regular season,” saluted Tim Cunningham, CHS head coach.
Next week’s district tourney at Cameron also will include top-seeded Kirksville and the winless host Dragons. They’ll meet in Monday’s first semifinal match at 5 p.m., followed by the Chillicothe-Moberly clash at about 6:45 p.m. Monday’s winners are due to square off for the district title next Thursday. For those unable to attend next week’s CHS matches at Cameron, they will be televised live online by Chillicothe-based UClickTV at www.uclicktv.com.
Second-seeded Chillicothe and top seed Kirksville split two regular-season meetings, each prevailing by shutout on its home turf.
Thursday’s CHS-Savannah clash at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II quickly tilted in the hosts’ favor.
Less than a minute into the action, the Savages had the ball go off them and beyond the end line, yielding a corner kick opportunity for the Hornets.
From the offensive right side, junior Brennan Munson powered a drive across the goalmouth area where it eventually came to the foot of CHS’ top scorer, Hague. The CHS forward drove the ball into the net from about 13 yards out and, after only 64 seconds, Chillicothe was in front.
The Hornets continued to set the pace and keep the ball almost exclusively on the Savannah defensive half of the pitch.
Then, when the Savages managed to push the ball up to and just across midfield for one of the few times in the first eight minutes, Hague and the Hornets made them pay for getting that far up the field.
Out of a battle for the ball near midfield, it caromed toward the SHS defensive half and Hague won the race for it. Using his body to shield a defender from the ball as he advanced toward the Savannah net on the offensive left side, Hague managed to out-maneuver the back trying to shadow or overtake him. Curling into some empty space about 15 yards from the goal while a teammate filled a lane to his right to create a passing option, Hague caught the Savages goalkeeper leaning to his left, anticipating the pass, and picked the “short” side to the ’keeper’s right at the 7:12 mark.
His second goal of the match unofficially was his team-leading 13th of the season and unofficially gave him a team-high 22 points (goals plus assists). His nine assists also are a team-most.
The quick 2-0 margin technically would have sufficed, since Chillicothe’s defense would limit Savannah to only one shot on net the entire 80 minutes, but CHS added to its lead three times in the last 25 minutes.
“Our attack and passing was on point and our defense was very solid,” Cunningham dissected his team’s performance.
The Hornets effectively ended any doubt about the eventual outcome when Baxter blocked a kick by the SHS goalkeeper, who had moved well out of the goal to his left to try to kick a ball a teammate had sent back toward the end line. The ricochet off Baxter went directly toward the vacant goal and the CHS frosh easily won the race with a Savannah back to the loose ball to nudge in for a 3-0 CHS lead. The easy tally at 55:49  was his sixth of the season.
About eight minutes later. in the match’s 64th minute, Seeley was knocked down a few yards inside the Savannah penalty area as he tried to slash through to the goal on a dribble. The ensuing penalty shot smashed into the goalpost to the left of the Savannah goalkeeper, who actually taken  step to his right, anticipating Seeley would go there. Although the ball’s carom could have bounced back into the field of play had it been an inch or two farther to Seeley’s right, instead it angled back toward the middle of the net across the goal line, giving the CHS defensive midfielder his fourth goal of the year, unofficially.
As time wound down, foreign exchange student Palasti was able to register his second goal of the season, convering a Jacob Anderson setup at 77:15. The assist was senior Anderson’s second of 2017.
"A great tribute to our eight seniors on their ‘Senior Night,’ playing our most complete match of the year,” the pleased Cunningham reflected.
Other Hornets seniors (and their parents) recognized in post-match ceremonies were backs Hunter Horton and Logan Minnick and outside midfielder Zach Boyles.