Knipp, crowd spur BLHS to win No. 11
Basehor-Linwood senior needs just one goal to tie state’s career record
Though it wasn't his intention, the referee in Tuesday's soccer game at Basehor-Linwood High School managed to fire up Austin Knipp and get a quiet BLHS crowd into it. Those two things ensured that the Bobcats would win their game against Maur Hill.
The Bobcats led 3-1 at halftime on goals by Stephen Millison, Tanner Bowers and Knipp, but they had hardly been dominant. In fact, Maur Hill managed seven shots on goal in the opening half, and only a bunch of quality saves by junior goalie Matt Murrell kept the Bobcats on top.
"They were good at getting 'through balls'," Murrell, who finished with 10 saves, said. "They were getting behind us and getting shots."
Three minutes into the second half, Maur Hill made things a lot more interesting, getting a goal after some miscommunication on the Bobcats' back line. At that point it was 3-2 and the Bobcats were on the verge of letting a team with a much worse record come into their home and steal a victory.
Emotions were running high and they spilled over in an argument between some BLHS fans leaning on the field's fence and the line judge nearest them. At that point the referee stopped the game and ordered everyone away from the fence and up into the stands.
He intended to calm things down, but instead he caused the fans on the bleachers, who had mostly been sitting on their hands, to finally get loud. About that time the Bobcats brought their play to another level, flying to 50-50 balls and forcing their way through defenders.
"It was the fans, it was definitely the fans," Murrell said of the sudden surge. "Once the ref told everybody to move to the stands it got them going and that got everybody else going."
"We finally got that fire you should get when you step on the field," BLHS coach Kevin Vincent added.
Still, the Bobcats couldn't find the insurance goal. Then, in the 68th minute, Knipp made a run down the right side, with a Maur Hill defender on his hip. As Knipp started to pull ahead, the defender grabbed his jersey to hold him back. Knipp tried to shove himself free and was called for a foul, and assessed a yellow card. It was only the second card the senior had received in 65 career games.
Knipp was forced to sit out one play, but when he came back on the pitch he played like a man possessed. In the 74th minute he chased down a loose ball, flicked it over the goalie with his head, and then rolled it in as a defender converged on him. The senior pumped his fist, hugged his teammates and the crowd went crazy. From that point on the game was never in doubt.
"He did amazing stuff, he definitely stepped up," Murrell said of Knipp. "He'd been taking shots all day and putting them over and he finally, I guess, got mad enough and just went off."
The last five minutes turned into the Austin Knipp Show, as he thrilled the crowd by pedaling his legs over the ball Brazilian-style and faking out the same defender who grabbed his shirt earlier. With just 11 seconds left he finished the game in style, crashing in for a header off a perfect cross from Bowers to make it 5-2.
The hat trick gave Knipp 30 goals for the season, a milestone he had never reached before. It also gave him 95 for his career, just one short of the state record set by Maranatha Academy's Jon Lemmon.
Knipp will have one more chance to break the record in the regular season, Thursday night's 6 p.m. home game against Bonner Springs. If he doesn't get it Thursday he'll still have at least one playoff game.