Kansas City: St. Pius X ties first-round Class 2 state-tourney match with under 5:30 left, win in second OT on Miguel Cobos penalty kick after CHS' Seeley broke ice with 22 minutes to go
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Kansas City: St. Pius X capitalized on a fleeting lapse of energy and focus by the host Chillicothe High School Hornets with just under 5-1/2 minutes remaining in regulation time to tie their Class 2 state tournament sectional-round match Tuesday night, then won it, 2-1, on sophomore Miguel Cobos’ penalty kick in the 25th minute of sudden-death overtime.
A clearly-fatigued Hornets defense played a long St. Pius X pass to open space deep into the CHS end tentatively, having to boot the ball out of bounds over the sideline in a situation where the Hornets could have played the ball back up the field on a potential counterattack.
On the throw-in to the left of the Hornets’ goal, M. Cobos slipped in front of a CHS defender about 20 yards from the net and tried to make a quick run toward the goal line. In doing so, he drew a tripping infraction from the defender in the penalty area with 5:36 on the clock in the second 15-minute OT.
Spotting the ball 12 yards from the middle of the north goal at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II, M. Cobos drilled a low, hard, right-footed shot well to goalkeeper Drew Toedebusch’s right and several yards inside the right goalpost for the game-ending tally after 114:24 of play.
“Our guys played so hard. I hope the community is as proud of these guys as I am because they sure give everything they can for Chillicothe,” praised Tim Cunningham, Hornets head coach.
Chillicothe (12-10-1), seeking its first-ever state-level win in only its second opportunity, put the pressure on the Warriors (14-9-2) when, on one of its few scoring opportunities of the match, senior Gavin Seeley headed home classmate Bryce Hague’s cross from the right wing at the 58:08 mark of the match.
When Seeley’s redirection found its target, Chillicothe’s conservative game plan – which had produced a 1-0 district-championship win when Brennan Munson’s 20-yards shot off a loose ball was one of only two CHS shots on goal – was on track to provide another triumph over a favored foe.
“We had two great days of practice and we prepared as much as we can prepare for this match, and I thought we executed what we wanted to do as well as we could have,” the CHS head coach said of his team’s patient and disciplined performance.
“They’re as talented up top as anybody we’ve seen all year and our guys did a great job of marking them and playing defense together and covering for each other.”
That goal was set up by, as Cunningham and his staff had hoped for, a SPX mistake – in this instance, its inability to control Hague’s low corner kick from the right side about 10 seconds earlier.
Hague’s drive was rejected in the penalty area, but none of the Warriors forwards reacted quickly enough to the ricochet back toward the CHS bench to prevent a Hornet from gaining possession and sliding the ball back up the offensive right sideline to the dangerous Hague.
The team’s leader in goals and assists as a senior this year strode down the wing with several touches to create space to right-foot a pass across the face of the goal and about 8-10 yards out from it.
There, a pair of Hornets – originally positioned in “the 18” (penalty area) for the prior corner kick – slid back toward the goal near each other. As the ball approached from the side, both jumped, but the one closer to Hague missed connections
A few yards away, however, defensive midfielder Seeley did not, intercepting the ball’s arc with the left side of his head as St. Pius X goalkeeper Edward Omecene – listed on the Warriors’ roster as their junior-varsity goalkeeper behind Aiden McClenney, who was in goal for SPX district title win over Maryville last Saturday – approached.
With the ’keeper too late to get to the ball first, Seeley’s redirection toward the goal had no obstruction and bulged the cords. His fifth goal of the season, unofficially, gave Hague his team-best 12th assist, unofficially, and left Chillicothe with 21:52 of second-half playing time to try to preserve or expand its now 1-0 lead.
Predictably, given the Kansas City team’s passing and attacking skill and the Hornets’ general defense-first mindset, play became even more heavily-tilted to the CHS defensive end of the pitch.
Eventually, after CHS sheltered its tiny margin for 16 of the 21-plus minutes, St. Pius X’s persistent pressure – and a bit of unpenalized physical play – created a brief fissure in Chillicothe’s stout defensive façade and sent the tying goal through it.
Although the Warriors had threatened the CHS “18” numerous times once they were behind, Chillicothe’s defensive “layering” and Toedebusch’s usual sound netminding had kept the zero on the visitiors’ side of the scoreboard when a new threat developed.
With the ball mostly along the pitch’s east sidelines, M. Cobos gained control about 30 yards from the goal line near the SPX bench and dribbled the center of the pitch. Ahead of him to his right, freshman teammate Kaine Beach had outside position on two Chillicothe players and plenty of room to run onto a long pass, if the opportunity presented.
Rather than lob a kick over the three players to try to reach Beach, M. Cobos sent a sharp, waist-high pass through their midst. One of the Hornets tried to elevate his legs to deflect it away and out of danger, but missed connections. That left the other one, trailing Beach a bit, to have to cut inside the Warriors’ young forward as he gained control about 15-20 yards out from the goal and just wide of the left (offensive right) goalpost.
Rather than shoot from a rather acute angle once he gained good control of the ball, Beach slowed and drew the ball back to his left. Before the pursuing Hornet could stop and change directions, the SPX player had a clear shot at the onrushing Toedebusch from less than 10 yards away from the goal.
In what looked, momentarily, like a potential victory-saving stop, Toedebusch’s positioning and aggressiveness put his leg in the path of Beach’s low drive and the ball caromed back to the ’keeper’s left toward the end (goal) line well wide of the net.
As the ball bounced away rather slowly, a Hornet and another Warrior joined Beach in giving chase – the Chillicothean hoping to at least kick the ball out over the sideline for a throw-in, rather than let it go beyond the end line off of Toedebusch for another SPX corner kick.
As the trio reached the ball just as it was about to cross the end line, there was contact which sent the Hornet – believed to be district-title-match hero Brennan Munson – flying and unable to complete his attempt to play the ball. With the Chillicothe player crumpled on the artificial turf beyond the end line and some observers fully expecting a whistle for an SPX foul, the ball crossed the end line and the game officials ruled it no foul and signalled for a Warriors right-side corner kick.
With the Chillicothe player still down on the turf, Beach quickly grabbed the ball and ran to the corner of the field. When no whistle sounded to allow the seemingly-injured Hornet to be checked, Beach waited for a moment for his teammate to get back toward the front of the goal and then quickly sent a drive toward the area about 10 yards in front of the CHS net.
As he did so, not only was the downed Hornet hobbling back onto the field of play, but two teammates – apparently either anticipating a stoppage to allow their teammate to be examined or a longer wait by St. Pius to allow more of its players to come forward for the pending “CK,” – stood within 8-10 yards of the Hornets goal, but with their backs to Beach and unaware that he already was putting the ball back in play. A third was only yards away, but – either distracted, tired, or confused by the lack of a stoppage – made no move to pick up a defensive assignment.
As the corner kick came in, it sailed over the head of the players whose backs were turned and never realized play was resuming, while the third would-be defender beyond them remained immobile. That left SPX senior Zach Cissell, the only holdover from the Warriors’ 2014 squad which won that state match over Chillicothe, to step in and jump undefended and head the ball toward the goal.
Measuring it perfectly, his headed ball sailed toward the goal at about crossbar height, carrying it over the head of Toedebusch as he scurried over from his initial position at the defensive right goalpost. Once past the beaten goalkeeper, the ball softly grazed the underside of the crossbar and into the net for the tying marker at 74:19 of the scheduled 80-minutes match.
“We just couldn’t hold on for the 21 minutes we had to,” lamented Cunningham.
Back on even terms, neither side developed a good scoring chance in the few remaining minutes of regulation time, sending the match to a first 15-minutes, sudden-death extra period.
After neither club could create a prime opportunity for the winner in the first few minutes, fatigue seemed to set in on both sides and the first extra segment whizzed by with little action of consequence.
The second OT seemed to be following much the same course until misjudgment or fatigue seemed to play a role in Chillicothe’s failure to gain control of the slow-moving ball deep on its end, a failure which, seconds later, begat the foul which provided the game-winning penalty kick.
Cunningham took note, with pride, that the Hornets were the only team which created a scoring play in the normal flow of play.
“Neither one of them was in the run of play,” he said, “and that’s a tribute to our guys – how well they marked and how well they defended.”
While this year’s senior-laden (eight players – all regulars or top subs) CHS squad came up minutes shy of earning the program’s first-ever state-tournament match in, it did return the program to have a winning record against strong competition after a 5-15-1 mark a year ago that featured a number of overtime or later losses.
“This year, we did have some pretty high expectations and they lived up to them really well,” Cunningham reflected in his post-match post-mortem.
He pointed out that a handful of this year’s seniors were freshmen members of the 2014 Hornets who captured the 11-years-old program’s first district title and state-tourney berth.
“They talked about that a lot (as a goal for that group) – coming into high school winning a district title and going out winning a district title, too,” the coach revealed.
“They carried on the tradition,” he praised, referencing the Hornets’ current string of 7-consecutive appearances in the district-championship match or beyond.
St. Pius X, which will join Chillicothe and six other schools in the Midland Empire Conference in 2018-19, goes on to the soccer state quarterfinals later this week.