High-scoring Baxter first-team pick all-league and district; only unanimous MEC choice
It’s pretty hard to do any better than the 2019 Midland Empire Conference co-champion and Class 2 DIstrict 4 title-winning Chillicothe (Mo.) HS soccer Hornets did in reaping individual-player postseason recognition.
In a spot in which a team utilizes 11 players at a time, the Hornets – league champs for the first time ever (sharing the crown this year with Kansas City: St. Pius X) and district champs for a fourth time – have had 11 different team members honored with either some level of all-conference or all-district status or both.
Leading the parade of Hornets honored, just as he led the 2019 Chillicothe offense, is junior forward Mason Baxter.
Having scored 26 goals and earning six assists for 58 “points” (in scoring individual statistical protocol, a goal is worth two points and an assist one) during the Hornets’ 11-10-1 campaign, Baxter not only was a first-team pick on both squads, but proved to be the lone MEC player unanimously selected all-conference at any position.
With his 26 goals this season, the speedster, whose foot skills continued to grow more polished as the season unfolded, ranks second behind only Jon Kline (29) on the single-season goal-scoring charts for the Hornets. Now at 42 for his career, he is only 13 behind all-time career No. 1 Steven Cooper with, presumably, one season to go.
On the all-MEC squad announced early this week, Baxter is joined as a CHS first-team pick by two teammates – inside back Carter Allen and inside midfielder Chace Corbin.
Allen, also a junior, was an integral part of the Hornets’ back line that held foes to two or fewer goals in a match 13 times. He also often tasked with “marking” (tracking one on one) the top scoring threat of the opposition throughout the match when that player was particularly dangerous. He did manage to earn one assist, as well.
Like Baxter, Allen was tabbed first team all-district from among the four teams involved in the District tournament Chillicothe hosted and won.
Sophomore Corbin was a strong contributor to the CHS transition game, helping making a quick conversion from defending to the attack, working to exploit the outstanding outside speed Baxter and others on the front line brought to the field.
Despite often being shorter than those he was battling, the young Hornet held his own in getting to balls in the air, whether in the midfield area or inside the opponent’s penalty area on corner and direct free kicks. That willingness to mix it up in traffic led to him popping home five goals – tied for third-most on the team – and earning four assists.
He received honorable mention in the all-district balloting.
Joining Allen and Baxter on the all-district first team, as well as getting all-MEC honorable mention, were sophomores Drake Cosgrove and Ben Cueni-Smith, the team’s two other starting forwards with Baxter.
That they were highly thought of by the other district schools wasn’t surprising, since Cueni-Smith had two goals and three assists and Cosgrove two goals – including what turned out to be the match-winner in the finals win over Savannah – and two assists in the 2-rounds tourney.
Overall on the season, the 10th grade duo were consistent scoring contributors who complemented and supplemented Baxter’s explosiveness very well.
Cosgrove finished second to Baxter in goals with eight and, with nine assists, in points with 25. Right behind him, points-wise, was Cueni-Smith, who paired four goals with a team-high 15 assists – the second-most helpers in a season in CHS history (behind Derek Hussey’s 18).
Getting second-team all-MEC honors was another Hornets back, junior Dalton Ripley.
In addition to his defensive duties as a “sweeper” between the other backs and the goalkeeper, Ripley took most of the team’s free kicks and goal kicks, due to the strength of his right-leg kicks. He also, due to his 6’2” stature, was utilized as a combination target/goalkeeper blocker on many corner kicks the Hornets took. He scored two goals in that capacity and a third on a 53-yards free kick at Moberly that bounced over the ’keeper’s head and in, while also earning a pair of assists.
Other Hornets receiving at least some votes for all-conference and thus receiving honorable mention were senior back Brendon Nelson, senior Noah Crowe (one assist) and junior Caleb Vance (two goals, four assists) at midfield (Crowe played outside, Vance inside), sophomore first-year goalkeeper Jaxon Albertson (11-9-1 record, four shutouts), and forwards Cueni-Smith and Cosgrove.
On the district level, where there were only first team and honorable mention groups, Ripley and Corbin were joined by senior outside midfielder Trent Norman, who came on strong down the stretch in the season to tie Corbin for third-most goals (five) on the squad, in addition to earning an assist. Norman had the Hornets’ only goal – which tied the match 1-1 – in the team’s season-ending loss to St. Pius X in the first round of the state tournament.