Despite losses, Bowers led by example
Tanner Bowers dribbled past three Piper defenders on Tuesday in the regional quarterfinal.
He fought them off, then made a quick turn with the soccer ball toward the goal and unleashed a shot. As he fired, his momentum carried him off his feet and tumbling onto the field turf inside Piper High School stadium as the ball trailed wide of the goal.
Piper received possession of the ball with 1:08 remaining in the game and held possession en route to a 1-0 victory.
For Bowers and his fellow seniors Mitch Mallon, Josh Keopke, Nathan Smith, Justin Gripka, Jonas Box and Devin Ridder the loss meant something more — their high school careers were over.
They concluded the season with a 1-0 loss to the Pirates, the team’s eighth one-goal loss this season and a 4-11-2 record.
Yet, these seniors will likely be remembered for much more. They are the bridge between last year’s Kaw Valley League Championship team that made a deep run in the postseason tournament and future success, coach Kevin Vincent said.
In a way they have been stewards of the Basehor-Linwood soccer tradition.
“I think they know that we are a young team, and understand that how they handle it is going to help build for the future,” Vincent said earlier in the year. “We may not see the victories, but their leading by example will help Basehor-Linwood get back to the level we want to be at. I think it is evidenced by the fact that we have not quit. You can definitely see from the seniors that we are fighting until the end. The knowledge that these players are passing on to the younger players is an invaluable tool.”
None had played a more valuable role for the team this season than Bowers.
He was one of the team’s primary weapons.
“He has been a go-to-player and a scoring threat who could also distribute the ball well,” Vincent said. “I think it was evident in the Turner game (when) he scored the tying goal it gave us the confidence we can come back. He scores and it gives us that lift we needed to keep playing. He’s been there for the good teams and knows how to take control of the game.”
Bowers and the seniors started playing when the Bobcats didn’t have much of a following and helped establish some of the tradition the team hopes to continue. Bowers still plays premier soccer with Austin Knipp, who scored more than 100 goals in his high school career.
They have talked about trying to play college soccer together.
While the losses mounted this season, Bowers said he enjoyed playing on this team.
“I am having fun,” he said. “It is good to see the younger players getting better. They are going to be pretty good. I am sure they will achieve a lot; they are pretty talented,” he said.
Yet, Tuesday’s game wasn’t about looking ahead or future growth. The loss was about this season and helping the Bobcats try to win a soccer game.
When it was over, Vincent tried to help seniors on the team reconcile the end of their high school careers.
“You seniors have given us all an amazing four years,” Vincent said. “As time goes on, the players on this team and the memories you made are the things you are going to remember. You started playing four years ago when we were at the building stages and you seniors were instrumental in taking the No. 2 seed to the wire tonight.”