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CHS soccer Hornets balance Benton books, clinch winning year

Hornets booters use second-half, 3-goals burst by Chace Corbin, Wyatt Brandsgaard, and Sam Reeter in 11:20 to fuel 5-3 home win over St. Joseph: Benton Cardinals Tuesday (Oct. 27)

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
Despite having missed the previous couple of matches with an injury, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS junior goalkeeper Jaxon Albertson slides out to prevent a husky St. Joseph: Benton Cardinal from having a chance to get a shot on goal from inside 10 yards late in the first half of CHS' 5-3 home victory Tuesday, Oct. 26, 2020.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

Entering the first of two COVID-19-caused make-up matches in this final week of their 2020 regular season in need of one victory to assure at least a winning final record, the Chillicothe Hornets built an early 2-0 lead, then responded emphatically when it disappeared less than three minutes into the second half of their home match with St. Joseph: Benton Tuesday (Oct. 27).

Hosting a squad which had defeated them 3-1 in the Midland Empire Conference match at St. Joseph 12 days before, the Hornets pumped in three goals in 11:20 after Benton had leveled the score at 2-2 2:05 into the second half and went on to prevail, 5-3.

The triumph lifted Chillicothe’s record to 9-6 with one match remaining before the start of the Class 2 District 8 Tournament at Savannah next week. The Hornets will make up a MEC match at St. Joseph: Lafayette Wednesday (Oct. 28) at 5 p.m.

Tuesday’s victory on their home Bob Fairchild Field pitch at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II saw the five CHS goals come from five separate sources.

The one which gave the Hornets the lead for good belonged to junior attacking midfielder Chace Corbin and came 4:40 after Treyton Mull’s second of the match – a sharp-angle shot after an excellent individual effort to beat a CHS defender and then elude onrushing goalkeeper Jaxon Albertson – had knotted the score at 2-2 only a couple of minutes into the second half.

A foul on a BHS Cardinal near midfield gave CHS a direct free kick opportunity which senior sweeper back Dalton Ripley took from 56 yards out from the Benton goal.

As his long, soaring kick sailed directly into the middle of the BHS “18” (penalty area), a teammate dashed toward it at the same time as the Cardinals’ goalkeeper charged forward from his goal line.

While the ball was too high for the Hornet to head at the point he tried to intersect its flight path, his proximity was enough distraction to keep the leaping netminder from catching the ball. As it dropped to the artificial turf, a scramble left the ball bouncing around.

It quickly came bouncing near senior forward Caleb Vance about eight yards from the goal. With the BHS goalkeeper between himself and the net and the ball in mid-air around chest high, rather than let the ball descend to nearer foot level, Vance smartly and adroitly jumped and bumped the ball with his knee, popping it over the ’keeper and slowly toward the vacant net.

There, only a couple of yards from the goal, were two Hornets and one Cardinal. As they converged on the ball, a sliding Ch. Corbin, who had missed just a bit high with a header off a Drake Cosgrove corner kick only about a minute before, got his legs on it, rolling it over the goal line for a 3-2 Hornets lead and his ninth goal of the season at 46:45 of the match.

Using smart body positioning and effective foot skills, 2020 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS sophomore back Wyatt Brandsgaard takes the ball away from a St. Joseph: Benton Cardinal just outside the CHS penalty area during the first half of the teams' Tuesday, Oct. 27, match at Chillicothe's Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium. Brandsgaard had an excellent game from one end of the pitch to the other, including scoring his first 2020 goal that eventually proved to be the match-winner in CHS' 5-3 triumph.

That tally turned into a trendsetter.

Barely a couple of minutes later, Cosgrove delivered another corner kick from the offensive right side into the goalmouth area. Once more, the Hornets created enough havoc as it descended to prevent the BHS goalkeeper from catching it or defenders from clearing it away.

In the melee, CHS senior forward Mason Baxter got a foot on it and rolled it into the path of sophomore back Wyatt Brandsgaard, who had been brought deep into the offensive third of the field because of his height. From five yards away, Brandsgaard chipped home his first goal of the season, restoring Chillicothe’s original 2-goals lead at 49:08, barely seven minutes after Benton had evened the match.

Perhaps wary of the proven fragility of a 2-goals lead, the Hornets continued to apply steady pressure on the Cardinals’ defense and, within 10 minutes, it cracked once more.

With the ball around 40 yards from the BHS goal, the Hornets won a battle for possession and Cosgrove chipped an elevated ball toward the Benton “18” again.

As it came down, with CHS sophomore Sam Reeter charging toward him, a Benton back misplayed the ball, which got behind him. As the surprised goalkeeper made a late start to try to get to it, S. Reeter got there first and directed home his third goal of the season at 58:05.

Now possessing a 5-2 advantage, Chillicothe was able to use seeming fatigue on the part of its guest to routinely keep the ball on the Benton end of the pitch.

The final result was a foregone conclusion when a CHS mistake on a seemingly-innocent play led to a third Benton goal with 64 seconds remaining. That tally left the teams not only having split their regular-season matches, but also with each having deposited six goals in the opponent’s net.

Defeated 3-1 on a smaller-dimensions field south St. Joseph on Oct. 15, Chillicothe sought to exploit the greater square-footage of its home pitch to create more gaps in the physical Benton defense during the rematch. The tactic worked.

About nine minutes into the match, Baxter’s wide run from the right side gave him room to cross the ball to Cosgrove, who fired it home for his team-best 12th goal of the season.

About nine minutes later, a bit of thievery by Cosgrove led to Baxter doubling the Hornets’ lead.

Having stolen the ball from the St. Joseph: Benton back now behind him, 2020 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS soccer Hornets junior Drake Cosgrove attacks the Cardinals' goal from just outside the penalty area during the 19th minute of the teams' Tuesday, Oct. 27, match in Chillicothe. The Benton player fouled Cosgrove as he attempted to shoot from about 12 yards away, resulting in a penalty kick which teammate Mason Baxter converted into the Hornets' second goal of their 5-3 victory.

As a Benton outside back retreated to collect a ball, Cosgrove shrouded him. When the Hornet saw a chance, he stretched out a leg to tap the ball away just outside the BHS penalty area. Quickly dashing around the Cardinal, the Chillicothean angled directly toward the goal on his right, about a stride ahead of the back.

As he got within about 12 yards of the goal, Cosgrove tried to let fly a right-footed shot, but, as he did, the BHS defender bumped his hip, sending the ball off-line and wide of the near post and Cosgrove tumbling to the ersatz grass. From only about 10 yards away, the referee’s whistle immediately trilled and he quickly pointed toward the front of the Benton goal, indicating a foul had been committed inside the penalty area and thus meaning a penalty shot for Chillicothe.

Hornets head coach Tim Cunningham instantly dispatched instructions for Baxter, the CHS program’s third-all-time leading goal scorer, to step to “the spot” and take the uncontested shot from 12 yards. When he did, his open-footed drive with his right foot scooted cleanly past the Benton goalkeeper into the lower left corner of the net, making it a 2-0 CHS lead after 18:43.

Senior forward Mason Baxter of the 2020 Chillicothe (Mo.) HS soccer Hornets uses his right foot to fire a penalty kick into the lower left corner of the St. Joseph: Benton goal in the 19th minute of the teams' Tuesday (Oct. 27) match in Chillicothe. Baxter's goal – the 49th of his CHS career – gave Chillicothe a 2-0 lead. After Benton fought back to tie it early in the second half, Chillicothe pulled away again to prevail, 5-3.

The goal, Baxter’s seventh this season, moved his career total to 49, two shy of second-place Jon Kline and six away from Steven Cooper’s team record.

Chillicothe’s 2-goals lead proved very short-lived, however.

Barely two minutes later, at 20:47 of the match, Chillicothe missed a chance to clear the ball out of its penalty area to Albertson’s left, leading to a drive that sailed past the lunging goalkeeper who was back in action after an injury absence of a couple of matches.

As the ball eluded him, a CHS back got a leg on it in front of the net, but couldn’t control it. As several players from each side lunged to get a piece of it within a few yards of the empty net, it finally was Mull who nudged it home for the first Cardinals goal of the evening.

Although Chillicothe managed to preserve its slender lead the final 19-plus minutes of the first half, Mull got the equalizer not long after play resumed following intermission, only to draw the decisive response from the home team.

A 40-minutes junior-varsity match Tuesday resulted with Benton gaining a 2-1 win. Chillicothe’s lone goal was by Jadon Collins, Cunningham reports.