Drake Cosgrove, Chillicothe (Mo.) HS Soccer Hornets Scale More New Heights Wednesday

Senior sets new CHS goals record, team wins 14th-straight to end regular season

Paul Sturm
Chillicothe News
In the 47th minute of the match, Chillicothe High School soccer Hornets senior Drake Cosgrove, right, gets a foot on Sam Reeter's pass and scores his team-record-breaking 30th goal of the 2021 season as the Hornets extended their team-record winning streak to 15 matches Wednesday with a 3-0 shutout of visiting Savannah.

By PAUL STURM, C-T Sports Editor

It rained – steadily, but not all that forcefully – through most of the Chillicothe High School soccer Hornets’ regular-season finale at Jerry Litton Memorial Stadium II Wednesday, but, metaphorically, it did not rain on the Hornets’ or senior forward Drake Cosgrove’s parade.

Beginning the last match of the Hornets’ regular-season schedule with – from the team standpoint – a record-length winning streak and – in Cosgrove’s individual pursuit – one goal shy of equaling the program’s season goals-scoring record, Chillicothe concluded the evening with both targets hit.

That wasn’t coincidental.

Hosting a Savannah Savages squad they had defeated 5-1 on the road a month earlier, the Hornets held fast through an early SHS challenge and rode Cosgrove’s record-tying 29th and record-breaking 30th goals of the season, as well as fellow standout Chace Corbin’s 25th goal of 2021, to a 3-0 “Senior Day” conquest.

The victory further lengthens this year’s squad’s team-record winning streak to 15 matches entering the start of Class 2 District 8 tournament play at Chillicothe’s Litton Stadium this Saturday.

"I simply do not have the vocabulary to describe how proud I am of this team,” confided Tim Cunningham, in his 11th year as head coach of the Hornets team whose first season of existence was in 2007.  “The amount of talent, effort, and team chemistry they have displayed this season has been remarkable and (this match) was no different.”

He continued, “It was a wonderful night for our seniors. Goalkeeper Jaxon Albertson, defenders Nate King, Logan Distler, and Bryan Sanchez, midfielders Aiden Zimmerman and Ben Cueni-Smith, and forwards Drake Cosgrove and Chace Corbin capped off an amazing regular season with our 15th-consecutive victory the only way they know how – with tremendous effort and great team work."

The second-seeded Hornets (17-3) will have the chance to tie the program’s largest-ever wins total for a season when they play seventh (lowest) seed St. Joseph: Lafayette in the tourney’s 1 o’clock opener Saturday afternoon, the first of Saturday's three quarterfinal-round contests in the 7-schools tournament. The only District 8 team not in action Saturday will be top-seeded St. Joseph: Bishop LeBlond, which has a bye.

This year’s Chillicothe club can match the 18 wins posted in 2012-13 by dispatching Lafayette’s Fighting Irish a third time in as many meetings. The Hornets won 6-0 at home relatively-early in the season and 3-0 at St. Joseph earlier this month.

Those are two of the eight shutouts the ’21 squad has fashioned, seven of which now have come with senior Jaxon Albertson in goal. Albertson’s seventh came when he stopped a handful of Savannah shots Wednesday.

The record-breaking and record-extending CHS triumph in Wednesday’s steady, but thankfully not too chilly, showers did not start very promisingly, but once the Hornets got themselves steadied, they controlled the action the rest of the way.

Savannah generated several scoring chances, including a potentially-dangerous corner kick it did not convert, in the first six minutes of action.

When a Savage found himself with room and time to trigger a shot from only 10 yards away from the Hornets goal about six minutes in, but only managed a moderately-paced attempt he lofted harmlessly a couple of feet over the crossbar above Albertson’s head, the “oomph” of the visitors’ quick push seemed to evaporate.

Before long, Chillicothe was repeatedly controlling the ball in the Savannah defensive end and in the attacking third of the artificial-turfed Bob Fairchild Field pitch time and time again.

Finally, not quite 25 minutes into the match, the cracks in the SHS defense the Hornets pressured to create led to a fissure that put CHS on the board and Cosgrove alongside former mentor Jon Kline on the top line of the Hornets soccer scoring record book in the “most goals in a season” category.

As Savannah’s goalkeeper tried to relieve the stress of another CHS attack with a punt to near midfield, Chillicothe junior midfielder Wyatt Brandsgaard read the ball’s flight best and got to it on the move as it landed just on the SHS end of the pitch.

After a touch or two, he right-footed a pass directly ahead about 10 yards to an open Corbin, who quickly dashed directly toward the Savannah goal about 45-yards away. After several dribbles, he waited until two Savages defenders ahead of him and to his right were fixated on intersecting his path, then pushed a pass between them into open space Cosgrove was charging toward at full speed.

Cosgrove caught up to it about 30 yards out from the goal with no one between himself and goalkeeper Stefan Loewe. With that much time and space, even as Loewe hesitated to move out a bit to try to diminish the amount of gaping net the CHS sniper could see, Cosgrove had very little difficulty letting go a right-footed shot from about 12 yards out that put his team in front 1-0 and put himself at 29 goals for the season after 24:51 of play.

The assist by Corbin was – after a re-check of statistics from all prior matches this season – his 16th of the year, not his 17th. The revised count still has him within two of the Chillicothe season record set by Derek Hussey in 2014 and tied last year by Mason Baxter.

Now even with Kline’s team standard, established in 2013, Cosgrove was sprung into the open by cohort Corbin in the 39th minute of the 40-minutes first half, but this time was a bit wider to the offensive right side of the pitch. That let Loewe’s advance toward him seal off access to more of the net and led to a hard, but wide-right, shot.

With Chillicothe quickly reassuming control of the action after the clubs swapped ends of the pitch following halftime, multiple Hornets had possible scoring chances fizzle before a scramble in the sixth minute of half No. 2 led to Cosgrove becoming No. 1 on CHS’ all-time scoring charts for a season.

With the ball being bandied about inside the Savages’ penalty area, Hornets junior Sam Reeter, who assisted on three of Cosgrove’s four goals in the late August season opener that announced Cosgrove’s pursuit of Kline, once more delivered the ball to his teammate’s foot and, at 46:24 into the match, Cosgrove did the rest.

Pushing a short shot into the Savannah goal from nine yards out, Cosgrove became the first Hornet ever to reach the 30-goals plateau in a season, simultaneously both surpassing Kline’s previous CHS season record and tying both Kline and Baxter for the second-most goals in a Hornets career with his 51st. Only one of Kline’s older teammates – Steven Cooper – now stands above Cosgrove, having netted 55 goals from the 2010-13 seasons.

For Reeter, a first-year starter, the assist on his teammate’s record goal was his 10th of the season.

While the 2-0 margin looked likely to be enough to secure the team’s 17th win and 15th in a row, Chillicothe smartly remained in “attack” mode, its defense ably defusing the occasional SHS foray into the Hornets’ defensive half of the pitch and getting the ball played back ahead for a new CHS attack.

Just over 10 minutes after Cosgrove’s milestone tally, Corbin reminded that he can “finish,” too.

Following the Savages sending the ball over their own end line, creating a corner kick chance for Chillicothe, Cosgrove launched the ball into the goalmouth from the offensive right side. As Loewe moved out from his goal line to try to catch it, a CHS player – possibly Corbin – moved toward the goal to try to get to the ball first.

The resulting contact left the ball skittering back toward the corner from where it had come with the Savannah ’keeper and coach expecting the referee – positioned no more than 15 yards away – to whistle play to a stop and call a foul on Chillicothe. However, after seemingly being poised to do that, the referee kept his breath in his mouth and his whistle silent.

With the ball still loose inside the SHS “18” (penalty area) and under the control of the dangerous Cosgrove, multiple Savannah players moved to prevent him from shooting, but he already had other plans.

Before they could reach him, he chipped a soft, high pass back into the area in front of the goal where S. Reeter and Corbin both were positioned within about eight yards of the goal line to which Loewe had retreated after the collision.

As is one of his top skills, Corbin perfectly determined where the ball would come down within reach of his head on a leap. With a jump and a forward motion of his skull, he directed the ball downward and just inside the left goalpost (from the defense’s perspective), just out of the goalkeeper’s reach for a 3-0 CHS lead.

Outleaping teammate Sam Reeter to reach fellow Hornet Drake Cosgrove's lob pass in the 58th minute, Chillicothe High School soccer Hornets senior Chace Corbin heads the ball into the Savannah goal for the final goal the evening as the Hornets extended their team-record winning streak to 15 matches Wednesday with a 3-0 home shutout.

That goal at 57:30 of the match not only cemented another Hornet triumph, but Corbin’s 26th of the season and 45th of his career. Set up by Cosgrove’s 10th assist, Corbin moved into a tie with Baxter for third-most in a CHS season.

With their clean sweep of Wednesday’s damage, the Cosgrove-Corbin cartel now owns 57 of the team’s 65 total goals. That’s the most ever by a Hornets tandem, having surpassed the 52 J. Kline and Cooper parlayed in 2013 when Cosgrove scored a second time in the Oct. 19 home conquest of Kirksville.

Mentioning Kirksville, its Tigers are one of the teams involved in the district tournament Chillicothe is hosting Saturday (Oct. 30), and next Monday and Wednesday.

Despite a nicely-solid team, KHS is only the No. 5 seed and will face fourth seed St. Joseph: Benton, also a very capable team with a very good goalkeeper, in Saturday’s 3 p.m. tourney quarterfinal. The survivor could give Bishop LeBlond a good challenge in Monday’s semifinals.

In Chillicothe’s half of the bracket, Savannah owns the No. 3 seeding and will be a heavy favorite over Cameron in Saturday’s 5 p.m. action at Litton Stadium.

The seedings make it very likely the host Hornets and Savannah will square off a third time on Monday at about 7 p.m. That will follow Bishop LeBlond’s tourney debut.

BLHS’ Golden Eagles enter the tourney 15-2 with losses only to Kansas City: St. Michael the Archangel and Midland Empire Conference champion Maryville. LeBlond reversed that defeat by the Spoofhounds with a vengeance in its non-league, regular-season finale, winning 8-0.

Chillicothe enters the tourney as the No. 2 seed and will be an underdog if it faces Bishop LeBlond, which defeated the Hornets 3-1 at Litton Stadium in early September.

However, if one is looking for a favorable omen, the Hornets have won the district crown and advanced to state play in each of the last two odd-number years. Their first crown came in 2014.