Thursday's (Oct. 24, 2019) non-conference 4-0 home win over Savannah likely clinches top seeding for district tournament
CHILLICOTHE, Mo. — Chillicothe (Mo.) HS’ soccer Hornets prolonged their recent proclivity for doing quick damage Thursday (Oct. 24), powering them to a home victory which sends them into postseason play with a break-even record.
Finding the back of the net in the first eight minutes of action for a third time in their last four matches, the Hornets leveled their final 2019 regular-season mark at 9-9-1 with a crisp, convincing, 4-0 conquest of the Savannah Savages.
Barely two minutes into the match, CHS season scoring leader Mason Baxter followed his own saved shot from short range and got to the loose-ball rebound after Trent Norman’s initial follow-up try went awry. Baxter’s second try from about three yards out from the SHS goal lifted him to the 20-goals plateau for the season, the sixth Hornet ever to achieve that significant level.
Before the opening half ended, but after a continued early onslaught of the Savages goal by CHS failed to add to the quick 1-0 lead, Baxter struck again, thanks to a Savannah slipup.
In the 31st minute, the ball was sent softly toward and slightly wide of the Savannah goal with a Savage back cruising back toward it, largely unchallenged initially, and with the SHS goalkeeper also angling over toward it. However, as Baxter hustled up from behind the back, just in case, the two Savannah players miscommunicated on who would do what.
The ’keeper expected the back to let the ball keep rolling forward, while shielding Baxter from getting to it, so the still-advancing netminder could pick it up and punt it away. The defender, unable to see how close behind him Baxter might be, grew anxious about whether the Chillicothe forward might beat the goalkeeper to the ball and decided he’d need to nudge it back his teammate.
As the back played the ball, the ’keeper had moved just close enough that the bit of extra speed the back’s touch gave the ball, as well as a slight change of angle, left the netminder without enough time or reach to grab the ball as he began to bend down. Instead the ball rolled past the goalkeeper toward the vacant net five yards away and when the two SHS players ended up getting in each other’s way for just an instant, Baxter darted past to collect the ball and gently roll in across the goal line for his and his team’s second goal of the match. That equaled CHS’ output in its early-season 2-1 win at Savannah in the teams’ meeting which counted in the Midland Empire Conference standings.
With Savannah having done little to solve Chillicothe’s defense on the few first-half occasions the Savages got the ball deep into the CHS third of the pitch, the 2-0 lead the Hornets held at halftime looked relatively secure. Before the last half was a minute old, CHS had the match under lock and key.
Getting the ball to start the second half, the Hornets quickly maneuvered it across the midfield stripe, where it came to the foot of center midfielder Caleb Vance.
From about 45 yards out, the junior punched the ball high into the air ahead and to his left, where it seemed headed right to a Savannah back. However, that SHS player misjudged the carry on the kick a bit and it landed beyond him, allowing an onrushing Norman to get past him and collect it inside the SHS “18” (penalty area).
Rather than triggering a shot from about 15 yards from there, although he had an open look and a prime scoring chance, with an inside defender rushing over to cut off his shooting lane, Norman opted to pull the ball back toward the center of Bob Fairchild Field. Although not with a lot of time and space there, one of CHS’ five seniors later to be honored on “Senior Day” had just enough room from an even-better shooting angle to pound a low, right-footed shot cleanly past the Savannah goalkeeper into the net for his second goal of the season. Only 28 seconds into the second half, the Hornets had a hammerlock on victory.
Nothing happened to loosen that grip over the final 39:32 of play and, in fact, Norman tightened it when, with just over two minutes left, he again got to a Vance pass from upfield inside the SHS “18” and drilled another low shot home for his second goal of the match and third of the season (the match’s public-address announcing/scoreboard crew had announced the senior as always having scored the first goal, but that was switched to Baxter in the official statistics announced by the coaching staff afterward, eliminating what would have been a 3-goals “hat trick” for Norman).
Simultaneous to the Chillicothe-Savannah action Thursday, Kansas City: St. Pius X was hosting St. Joseph: Benton in a match which did count toward the MEC standings. Needing to win to keep alive its chances of sharing the conference title with already-crowned Chillicothe, which finished 6-1 in MEC play, SPX nursed the 2-1 lead it gained in the first half through a scoreless last 40 minutes to improve its league record to 5-1.
If the Kansas City school defeats Savannah in a make-up match of an earlier rainout this coming Monday, CHS and SPX will be co-champions. A Savannah surprise of the Warriors would give the title to Chillicothe outright.
Statistically Thursday in Chillicothe, CHS sophomore goalkeeper Jaxon Albertson recorded the third shutout of his career and the team’s season, having made four saves.
Offensively, Norman paced the Hornets with his two goals and one assist. The “helper” was his first of the season.
Vance earned his third and fourth 2019 assists, while junior Baxter’s two tallies left him with 21 in 2019.
When he started Thursday’s scoring, Baxter became the sixth Hornet ever to register a 20-goals season (according to records kept and researched by the C-T), joining single-season record-holder Jon Kline (29 in 2013), Jacob Rockhold, Derek Hussey, Steven Cooper, and Dylan Clark. His second of the match tied him with Clark for fifth-most in a season, two behind Cooper’s 2013 total. Clark scored his 21 in 2014.
Although it apparently won’t be official until this weekend when a seeding meeting occurs, Chillicothe’s second triumph over Savannah almost certainly secured its hold – if it wasn’t already tight, based on an unbeaten record against the other teams and its MEC title – on the top seeding for the upcoming, 4-teams Class 2 District 16 tournament it will host.
In all likelihood, the Hornets will begin the 2-rounds tournament against presumed No. 4 seed Cameron on Monday, Nov. 4. Maryville figures as the No. 2 seed with Savannah third, meaning they’ll play the other semifinal match.
Although not definitively set yet, the tourney’s championship match is likely to be scheduled for Wednesday, Nov. 6.