BLHS star gains scoring sidekick
Austin Knipp gets some help up front from super sophomore Stephen Millison
In his first two soccer seasons at Basehor-Linwood High School, Austin Knipp had to be Superman for the Bobcats' offense.
He was flying solo most games as the team's only dependable scoring option on the front line. This year, Knipp is more like Batman, with sophomore Stephen Millison playing Robin.
Millison finished the regular season with 11 goals in 16 games, finally giving the Bobcats a double-digit scoring partner for Knipp at the team's other forward spot. And he doesn't mind being known as Knipp's sidekick.
"It's been that way pretty much since first grade," Millison said.
Knipp and Millison played together through many years of youth soccer and it shows on the field. They communicate well on the front line and their playing styles complement each other nicely.
"They feed off of each other," BLHS coach Kevin Vincent said. "Austin gets a lot of finesse goals, like the rocket shot, the upper-ninety type shots, where Stephen gets more of the hustle-type goals."
Millison takes the differences between Knipp and himself and draws a parallel to two veterans of England's Premier League, Thierry Henry of Arsenal and Eric Cantona, formerly of Manchester United.
"Henry has a lot of dribbling skill and knows how to finish," Millison said of the player he would peg as Knipp's counterpart. "Eric Cantona knew how to finish, but his main thing wasn't dribbling, it was putting a body on someone and getting the ball, going after everything."
Millison said that his own improvement in finishing was a big reason his scoring jumped from two goals last year to 11 this year. Most of the shots that flew over the crossbar in his freshman season are now on net. Knipp has noticed other improvements, as well.
"I think what Stephen's done is be more aggressive," Knipp said. "He always runs after the ball, even if no one thinks he can get there, and he always runs into the keeper."
Millison's emergence couldn't come at a better time for the Bobcats. With two 20-plus-goal seasons, Knipp was well-known to all of the BLHS opponents this year and was always heavily marked. But with Millison's physical play taking some of the heat off, Knipp was still able to net 20 regular season goals and lead BLHS to a 7-9 finish, its best in years.
There's optimism for Basehor-Linwood to win a playoff game this year and even make a run at a league championship next season. After that, the future is less certain. Although it seems unthinkable, the day will come when the Bobcats will take the field without their offensive superhero, Knipp. But Knipp's not worried about leaving the scoring load in Millison's hands when the time is right.
"I think he'll take my spot," Knipp said. "I think they'll be a good team and he'll definitely have a good year."