Hague has 14th goal and two assists, while Seeley leads the defense in CHS' seventh shutout this season. Baxter fires home two goals. Chillicothe to meet top seed Kirksville for Class 2 District 15 crown Thursday at 5 at Cameron.
CAMERON, Mo. — One of the most-often cited bromides of postseason sports competition is that, at a time when the level of competition grows keener and the stakes higher, "your best players have to play the best."
Whether seniors forward Bryce Hague and midfielder Gavin Seeley of the 2017 Chillicothe High School soccer Hornets are familiar with that experience-bred insight or not, they exemplified it Monday.
Two of eight CHS senior booters who know their next loss is their last, they set the pace in Chillicothe's dominating 3-0 victory over Moberly, combining for one goal, three assists, and lots of possession time in the Class 2 District 15 semifinals win.
The triumph advances second-seeded Chillicothe (11-9-1) – in the district finals for a seventh-straight year, but champion only once – to Thursday's 5 p.m. district-title match against No. 1 seed Kirksville. Kirksville eliminated host Cameron 5-0 Monday.
Thursday's title clash will be the third between the combatants this year and a rematch of last year's first-place match. Earlier this year, the Hornets won 2-0 at home, but lost to the Tigers 3-0 on the road. Kirksville won the 2016 district crown with a 3-1 verdict in Chillicothe.
Hague, the Hornets' leader in both goals and assists this season, had his 14th goal just past the mid-point of the second half to give CHS a firmer grip on the match it had led since freshman Mason Baxter had converted a Hague crossing pass into his seventh 2017 goal at 36:26 of the first half.
Hague then set up Baxter again with about nine minutes remaining, earning his 11th assist of the year.
Seeley bedeviled Moberly's attempts to manufacture any kind of advance of the ball through the middle of the field whenever the Spartans could get the ball away from the incessant pressure Hague, Baxter, and outside midfielders Jacob Anderson, Zach Boyles, and Brennan Munson put on them deep on the MHS end of the pitch.
Seeley also contributed to the offense, making the play that gave Hague the chance to give the team a 2-goals cushion. Helping thwart one of Moberly's few forays with possession across midfield over the three-fourths of the match, Seeley drove the ball from about 15 yards on the CHS side of midfield deep toward the Moberly end, but toward the corner. That kept it well away from the Moberly goalkeeper, giving Hague time to out-run a Spartans back and take possession.
Maneuvering nimbly even as the defender tried to pressure him on one side with the end line as a barrier on the other, Hague slipped past the defender toward the goal and, from about 7-10 yards away at a sharp angle to the goalkeeper's right, delivered a hard, ground-hugging shot the 'keeper could not drop quickly enough to block.
Prior to and after finishing that play, Hague served as setup man for Baxter, this season's second-leading CHS goal scorer.
Having had two or three nice chances to score himself in the first 30 minutes, only to be wide of the target a couple of times and have the third one stopped by netminder Isaiah Killinger, Hague switched mindsets from finisher to facilitator.
As the teams neared halftime still scoreless, the ball was played beyond the east sideline of Cameron High School's Dave Goodwin Field by Moberly.
On the ensuing throw-in from near midfield on the MHS end, Anderson fired it deep down the sideline toward the corner as Hague accelerated in that direction. As he did later in tracking down Seeley's pass on his own tally, the CHS forward beat the nearest Spartan to the ball and turned it toward the goal, forcing the goalkeeper and other defenders to "honor" him. When they approached, he directed a soft pass into the goal-front area where Baxter was coming in as a trailer. As the ball arrived, the freshman – who had missed on an earlier, similar Hague setup – beat the man marking him to it and, with his right foot, from about seven yards away, redirected it inside the right goalpost Killinger had just left 3:34 before halftime.
With Moberly's most-skillful offensive player shaken up in a collision with a Hornet just as the first half expired and unable to take the pitch for the first 25-30 minutes of the second half, Chillicothe continued the dominance it had established the last 20 minutes of the first half.
Finally, after a number of strong, but fruitless, scoring chances and one nearly-disastrous play at the defensive end that almost tied things, Hague doubled the lead in the 65th minute. Six minutes later, slipped another pass from the left side into the goalmouth and past a MHS back to where a sliding Baxter could nudge it home for the icing on the cake.
The second-closest Moberly (5-17-1) came to scoring, aside from its early, close-in chance, came about midway through the second half.
A Spartans direct free kick from just on the Chillicothe defensive side of midfield sailed high toward the 18-yards-deep penalty area in front of the CHS goal. As it descended, Hornets senior goalkeeper Drew Toedebusch sensed he could run to the spot it appeared likely to come down and either catch it or punch it back upfield.
However, he miscalculated and arrived to make his jump to catch the ball a moment too late. Before he could get to the ball, it was headed by a leaping Moberly player on toward the general direction of the now-empty CHS goal. To the Hornets' and Toedebusch's great relief, however, the headed ball carried over the goal and a bit wide, too, rather than finding its target and tying the match.
Statistically, Toedebusch was required to stop only two shots to accomplish his and the Hornets' seventh shutout of the season and second in a row.
Seeley's assist on Hague's goal was his seventh of the season.