Archive for Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Opinion: Soccer has earned place at BLHS

November 8, 2006

Soccer has come a long way at Basehor-Linwood High School since 2003.

That was the first year I covered the school and I remember making a somewhat strange trip to Linwood where the team was playing its home games.

The guys got off the bus and then had to wait for a middle school football practice to end before they could take the field and start their game, which they played in front of six or seven fans and me.

It wasn't what I expected from varsity soccer.

Later that season the team's home games were moved to the BLHS football field, where last Tuesday a couple hundred people watched the Bobcats play in the state quarterfinals.

Certainly playing at the high school football field is a big step up from the middle school football field, but I think it's time soccer took the next step.

It's time for a soccer-only field at BLHS.

There are several reasons why the Bobcats' current home field is less than ideal, and they get brought up quite often by visiting coaches.

First of all, it's too narrow. New lines had to be drawn before the playoffs so that the field would conform to state regulations, and even then it was just barely within the guidelines.

Given the way the Bobcats like to play, passing the ball into open spaces and then using their speed to chase it down, a bigger field might have meant more victories this year.

In fact, BLHS had a better record on the road (7-1-1) than at home (6-4-0).

Secondly, the current field is too severely "crowned" for soccer. It has a hump that's high in the middle and then drops off sharply on both sides. This helps it drain, and it's fine for football, but in soccer it makes every pass to the sideline skitter quickly out of bounds.

Defenders probably like it, but it really takes away from the flow of the game and makes it less fun to watch.

The final reason I'll give for a soccer-only field is that playing two sports on that grass just tears it up too much.

A little rain during the last football game of the season left a mud pit about five feet wide and 10 feet long on the north half of the field.

The next day the BLHS soccer squad had to play a regional championship game around that pit, which clearly affected a number of passes.

Props to BLHS athletic director Joe Keeler and his staff for cleaning up the pit in time for the state quarterfinal game, but it was still a patch of rock-hard clay filled with deep cleat marks -- not the kind of ground you want to be slide-tackling on.

So, that's why BLHS needs a soccer-only field.

The school has two up-and-coming soccer teams (boys and girls), and they deserve first-class facilities. Or least their own second-class facilities.

It's not as though soccer-specific fields are unheard of at 4A schools, either. Just this year Basehor has played on them at De Soto, Tonganoxie and Perry-Lecompton.

Besides, I've already thought of a great name for the new BLHS soccer palace. It could be called "Century Field," in honor of Austin Knipp, the first man to score 100 goals in Kansas high school soccer history.

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