Coach Michael Palermo and his Blue Springs boys soccer team felt great heading into Thursday’s championship game of the Liberty Fall Kick-Off Classic.
The team not only upset Liberty in the semifinals, but held its first two opponents scoreless. While the Wildcats had a lot of momentum, it was quickly halted by Lee's Summit North.
The Broncos won their 13th straight contest over Blue Springs dating back to 2009, getting goals from six different players in a 6-1 rout.
Although it was a lopsided loss for Palermo’s team, the Wildcats didn’t hang their heads. After the game, the upbeat coach congratulated his team on a solid tournament performance.
“To be honest, we didn’t think we would be one of the last two teams in this,” Palermo said. “We graduated 20 seniors the last two years, have a lot of new guys playing and here we are in the finals against a great Lee’s Summit North team. I am very proud of our performance and taking second place.”
The Broncos set the tone early, taking four shots within the first 10 minutes to put a lot of pressure on Wildcat goalkeeper Kyle Handy, who had 14 saves. The sophomore stopped two of those before one got past him midway though the first half. Alex Gregg received a cross from Aaron Bowers at the right corner of the 18-yard box and drilled it off the fingertips of a diving Handy to make it 1-0.
“Their goalie made a great effort on that and almost had the save,” North coach Ryan Kelley said. “Alex hit a really beautiful shot there, and that opened things up for us and gave us confidence.”
The Broncos, who held a 15-2 shots-on-goal advantage (5-1 in the first half), kept the ball on the Blue Springs side of the field all night. They were on the attack again in the 27th minute as Jackson Willard won a 50-50 ball just outside the penalty box and sent a cross to Cory Mitchell, who booted it in to a wide-open right side of the net.
With 7:27 to go in the half, Teddy Gifford tackled a Blue Springs defender who was trying to clear the ball, gained control and angled a shot inside the right goalpost from 10 yards out for a 3-0 lead.
Parker Moon and Bowers added goals in the 42nd and 62nd minute, respectively for an insurmountable 5-0 edge.
Blue Springs finally got on the board with its fifth shot attempt of the game. A 40-yard kick from a Wildcat player deflected off the hands of Bronco goalkeeper Nick Cooper, but the ball came right to John Gillespie, who scored on a wide-open net.
Willard added one more goal in the 74th minute to cap the Bronco offensive onslaught.
“About eight guys have scored goals for us on the season,” Kelley said. “We lost our leading scorer last year (Cody Hoffman), who broke a school record with 40 goals. We want to spread the ball around this year and have a lot of guys score.”