Opinion: One heck of a season finale
Last Thursday, sandwiched between the last meaningful league game of the season and the first game of regionals, the Bonner Springs Braves and Basehor-Linwood Bobcats did battle on a wet and somewhat sloppy soccer field.
Because the Kaw Valley League only counts the first matchup between league foes in the league standings, this game was meaningless except for how it affected each team's final record and, of course, the bragging rights that were at stake.
I almost skipped it. The weather nearly inspired me to. But I'm glad I didn't.
Here are a few things I saw at Thursday's game - which Bonner Springs won, 5-3 - that made me realize soccer's more than just "another fall sport" at both schools.
- First, kudos to Basehor-Linwood coach Kevin Vincent for bringing an intense attitude to the BLHS sideline. Throughout the game, Vincent shouted words of encouragement to his players. Sometimes those words rained down like orders from a military general. Other times Vincent's voice cracked at the end of his instructions, a sound reminiscent of a tuba player hitting a stale note. But there's nothing stale about the passion with which Vincent directs his team. He's a fiery leader and the success of his team -- both on the scoreboard and in playing the right way -- means something to him. And that should mean something to the community.
- Any time these two teams get together, the fans are treated to a great individual showdown between Bonner Springs' Jon Baxter and Basehor-Linwood's Austin Knipp. Both players are among the best in the Kaw Valley League, and although they rarely guard each other, both are aware of the other's presence at all times. Thursday, Baxter got the best of the battle, scoring two goals, including the game-winner, and assisting on another. But Knipp had his moments, as well. Both are supremely talented players, and both have a real shot at taking their teams deep into the postseason.
- Speaking of supremely talented players, here's a vote for Basehor-Linwood goal keeper Zach Lowe as the best goalie in the Kaw Valley League. Forget the stats, leave the save percentages and win-loss records in the bag. Lowe's lightning-quick reflexes and relentless pursuit of the ball in the box make him the one I'd pick as my last line of defense among all KVL goalies.
- Following the game, the Bonner Springs Braves picked a funny way to celebrate the league co-championship they clinched the day before with a 7-1 win over Bishop Ward. Despite the fact that the temperature sat at a surprisingly cold 49 degrees, a handful of the varsity players thought it would be a good idea to dump the water bucket on head coach Jimmy Vogel. So, as junior Joey Schmidt distracted Vogel with questions about an upcoming practice, a quartet of beverage bandits crept up from behind and doused their coach with ice water. It wasn't a direct hit, but I'd say about 80 percent of the water landed on Vogel. Bothered more by the cold than the gesture, Vogel promised to get revenge during practice.
- The game marked the final regular season home contest in the careers of BSHS seniors Jon Baxter and Eric Nielsen. Unfortunately, Nielsen sat out because of a hamstring injury, but Baxter did more than enough to represent the senior class. Both players have done a lot for Bonner Springs soccer, and it's hard to believe they won't be on the field when fall rolls around again in 2006.