CHS soccer Hornets march on in October
Cosgrove paces 3-2 triumph over Kirksville Tuesday, closes to within one goal of season scoring mark
By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor
Although they never trailed after a Sam Reeter goal in the first 10 minutes Tuesday, the rampaging Chillicothe High School soccer Hornets couldn’t fully exhale until about the final 10 seconds of their 3-2 triumph over the Kirksville Tigers.
As the final minute drained from Chillicothe’s Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II scoreboard clock, the visiting Tigers somehow managed two break-ins on Hornets goalkeeper Jaxon Albertson which threatened to become deflating goals that would force the match into overtime.
However, Albertson first stopped a shot from KHS forward Tychique Tshienda, then carefully shadowed the rolling ball as it went a few yards wide of the CHS net and out of bounds with a Tiger in desperate pursuit with about 10 seconds to go.
That closed out the Hornets’ record 13th victory in succession, a streak which has elevated them to a 15-3 mark on the season entering today’s noon home match against a third-consecutive non-league foe from the North Central Missouri Conference, Mexico. Chillicothe nipped Mexico 6-5 on a neutral pitch at Moberly just over a month ago with all of the Hornets’ goals coming from the body of senior forward Drake Cosgrove in a match-record-smashing performance.
“A tough back-to-back against another quality team,” CHS coach Tim Cunningham comments, referencing the preceding evening’s 3-2 post-overtime “shootout” victory at Hannibal.
“Our guys got off to a great start in the first half and were able to put a lot pressure on their defense. In the second half, we were able to hold on with some very tired legs.”
Tuesday also saw the volleyball Lady Hornets battle hard throughout, but lose their Midland Empire Conference finale in straight games at St. Joseph: Benton – 24-26, 16-25, 23-25.
Cosgrove was the critical factor in Tuesday’s triumph over the Tigers, firing home his 27th and 28th tallies of the season to leave himself only one shy of tying Jon Kline’s program record for goals in a season, set in 2013.
With the Kirksville match level at 1-1 after a ninth-minute goal by Sam Reeter off Gabe Hansen’s setup and Tshienda’s equalizer just over seven minutes later, Chillicothe seemed to have a tinge of desperation to its offensive game as the first half entered its final 15 minutes.
Despite a wind-aided wide advantage in play through 25 minutes, with the Hornets’ dynamic 1-2 punch of Cosgrove and classmate Chace Corbin having peppered the Kirksville defense and goalkeeper Ethan Austic with attempts to regain its earlier lead, neither side led. With KHS due to have the strong south wind at its back after halftime – the wind died down considerably, however, after the sun sank in the western sky, the threat was the Tigers would gain the upper hand in attack time and capitalize more in the last 40 minutes of regulation time.
Finally, though, Chillicothe’s persistence and pressure was rewarded in time to create a bit of cushion.
In the 29th minute, the ball came to attacking midfielder Corbin, owner of 24 goals himself in 2021, about 30-40 yards away from the Kirksville goal.
He maneuvered it to Cosgrove, who – normally deployed in more an outside (wing) position in the CHS offense – had only recently re-entered the match after some rest and had been shifted to more of a central position.
From beyond 30 yards away, Cosgrove dribbled the ball from left to right across the center of Bob Fairchild Field’s artificial surface, looking to get enough daylight to trigger a drive on goal. Finally, as he got a bit outside the left goalpost (from the defense’s perspective) while still about 20 yards away from the net, he got enough room and time and a bit of an open angle to hook a low, right-footed, against-the-grain shot toward Austic.
Having needed to keep shifting to his left as he mirrored Cosgrove’s path across the pitch to protect the left portion of the goal behind him, the KHS netminder had to stop and try to dash back to his right, trying to catch up to the not-overly-fast, but well-aimed shot. When his desperate dive resulted in either a whiff or only the slightest of contact with the ball that could not redirect it wide, Cosgrove’s shot skipped into the Kirksville goal only about a yard inside the right post at the 28:49 mark for his 27th goal of the season, second-most in CHS boys’ history.
The regained CHS lead grew and Kline’s records-book advantage over Cosgrove shrank less than three minutes later.
Again he and Corbin were doing their predatory “thing” inside the attacking third of the pitch, where the ball spent a good portion of the opening half.
This time, Corbin was doing much of what Cosgrove had done minutes before, working left to right with the ball on his foot, looking to get space to unleash a shot, except that he was well into the KHS penalty area.
The opening Corbin sought finally materialized from a rather-sharp angle to Austic’s left again. While the goalkeeper positioned himself to give the Hornets senior not much, if any, open net to shoot for, Corbin’s proximity also gave the ’keeper minimal time to try to react and control any shot.
When the Hornet pulled the trigger on the Tigers’ netminder, Austic got part of his body in the way, but had no chance to catch the ball. Instead, it caromed off him to his right, directly into the middle of the pitch where Cosgrove was lurking in anticipation of just such an occurrence. Easily striding into the ball, Cosgrove blasted it waist-high into the vacant middle of the KHS net at 31:38 into the match for his 28th goal of the season and 49th (fourth-most all-time) in his career.
With the two quick tallies meant Chillicothe had gained some more-significant tangible benefit from having the wind at its offense’s back during the first half. It turned out they’d need both to prosper.
Although Kirksville never managed to sustain long-term pressure in the second half like Chillicothe had in the first, the Tigers did capitalize on a “set piece” in the middle of the second half to cut its deficit in two.
From the offensive right side, a corner kick was launched into the area in front of the Hornets’ goal, where sophomore Gavin Pike of Kirksville was positioned to pound home a quick shot for KHS’ second goal of the evening. With still 21:18 left to play, Chillicothe’s lead was shrunk to 3-2.
Having twice before shaded Kirksville this season (2-0 at Moberly and 2-1 at Kirksville), the Hornets were familiar with the challenges of trying to protect a narrow lead from the Tigers.
By and large, they did so effectively until the surprising pair of last-minute misjudgments almost proved costly.
Statistically, in addition to Cosgrove ringing up goals No. 27 and 28 of 2021, S. Reeter’s scoring-starting tally was his third of the season. To date, Hornets other than Cosgrove and Corbin have produced only seven goals, while the twosome now has 52 combined.
With his assisting role on both Cosgrove goals Tuesday, Corbin’s season total in assists increased to 16, third-most ever by a Hornet and two shy of the team season record shared by Derek Hussey and Mason Baxter.
However, Corbin – despite numerous potential opportunities to extend it, saw his CHS-record 11-matches goal-scoring streak come to a halt.
After trying to make Mexico its 14th-consecutive victim today – the visiting Bulldogs also were the second, Chillicothe will have one more regular-season match before starting Class 2 District 8 tournament play at home either late next week or the week after.
Savannah is due to visit for non-MEC action next Wednesday at 5 p.m.
At St. Joe Tuesday, the Chillicothe spikers concluded their best regular season – at least record-wise – in five years with a n 11-15 overall ledger as they lost to Benton’s Lady Cardinals, the same team they’d then face two nights later to begin the Class 3 District 16 tournament (visit www.chillicothenews.com/sports for results).
On Tuesday, while the Lady Hornets to the limit or beyond in the opening and closing games, they still suffered their sixth loss in the seven MEC matches of the season. Having defeated only St. Joseph: Lafayette in loop action for a second year in a row, Chillicothe managed to avoid the league cellar again.
Statistically in the regular-season finale, seniors Gracie West and Claire Ripley shared the CHS attack lead with six “kills” (spikes) apiece – a career-best for Ripley. Junior setter Jessica Reeter was credited with 11 assists and also shared the team lead in floor defense with Delanie Kieffer with six “digs” each. Anna Fisher and Reeter had two service aces apiece, as well, coach Bob Long reports.