Bobcats dispatch De Soto, but struggle vs. Jags
Results from the first week of the 2006 season were mixed for the Basehor-Linwood soccer team, leaving the Bobcats still wondering about where they fit in with the area's elite squads. Last Friday the Bobcats opened the season with an impressive 5-0 road victory over De Soto, which seemed to suggest they were ready for a big season, even after just nine days of practice. Things changed on Monday against Mill Valley, though, as the Jaguars defeated Basehor-Linwood 4-1.
The loss to Mill Valley wasn't a shocker, given that the Jaguars were league co-champs last year and had 55 players come out for soccer this year. But the somewhat lopsided score was a surprise considering how good the Bobcats looked against De Soto.
The season started Friday with all-state forward Austin Knipp showcasing himself in the new role of distributor, rather than his usual one of scorer. Seven minutes into the De Soto game Knipp took the ball into the right corner and drew a crowd of Wildcat defenders. The senior rolled a pass up to the top of the box, where Ryan Sirridge collected it and drilled it into the lower-left corner for a goal.
Eighteen minutes later Knipp found himself in his familiar scoring role again, accepting a pass from Stephen Millison and burying it with a clever back-heel after his first shot was deflected by the De Soto keeper. Before the half ended Knipp set up another goal, crossing it to Tanner Bowers, who finished from the top of the box.
"At halftime I was thrilled with the fact that three separate people had scored," BLHS coach Kevin Vincent said. "We were playing very unselfish and that makes us a lot harder to defend."
The shell-shocked Wildcats pulled out all the stops trying to halt the surging Bobcats' attack. At halftime they moved all-state midfielder Brady Seaman back to defense to try and calm things down, but the Bobcats stayed aggressive and found another goal off a set piece. Sophomore midfielder Justin Gripka lofted a dangerous corner kick in front of the net and Bowers rose above two defenders to head it in. The 5-foot-6 Bowers had a simple response when asked how he was able to out-leap the taller players for the ball.
"Weights class," he said. "(BLHS strength and conditioning coach Ross) Schwisow's been doing a good job and Gripka gave me great service."
Bowers' second goal put the Bobcats up 4-0 and put the game more or less out of reach. Junior goalie Matt Murrell earned his first shutout and was rarely challenged as the Bobcats' defenders frustrated De Soto's leading scorer, Zach England, the entire game. Knipp dribbled through the worn out De Soto defenders and added a fifth goal shortly before the final whistle.
De Soto was a quality opponent, but on Monday BLHS ran into a Mill Valley team that was simply at another level. The Bobcats hadn't yet seen anyone with the speed of Jaguars' forward Spencer Nash, who scored two goals and set up another against them. Offensively the Bobcats had trouble reclaiming the explosiveness they showed against De Soto. They struggled to work the ball into the Jaguars' third of the field because of the strength and physicality of Mill Valley's defenders.
The one bright spot against the Jags came on a classic Stephen Millison hustle play. In the first half one of the Jaguars tried to play the ball back to his goalie, Blake Elliot, but the field was soaked from several inches of rain and the wet grass slowed the ball up just a bit. Millison was able to beat Elliot to the ball and knock it in, cutting the lead to 2-1.
"His goals are hustle, he battled all day and he really showed his toughness," Vincent said of Millison.
The junior's goal wasn't nearly enough against the Jaguars, though, and neither were Murrell's 19 saves. The Bobcats had gone to Mill Valley and beaten the Jags for the first time ever last year and the home team seemed determined to not let it happen two years in a row.
"They returned a lot of players and I'm sure they had a bitter taste in their mouths from last year," Vincent said. "I'm sure they were out to get their home field glory back."
The Jaguars got some of it back Monday, but the Bobcats will have another shot at them on Wednesday, Sept. 20 when Mill Valley has to come play at Basehor.
The Bobcats' next varsity game is scheduled for 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 31 at home against Tonganoxie.