In recent years the Blue Springs South boys soccer team has dominated possession more often than not when facing crosstown rival Blue Springs.
The Jaguars came into Thursday’s rivalry game winners of 10 straight against the Wildcats and were given all they could handle and then some. However, Tommy Johnson’s goal and the defense of goalkeeper Keavin Hart was enough for South to hold on for a 1-0 victory at Larry Stewart Memorial Stadium.
South coach Jon Grice acknowledged that the match was a tough one as his team had one goal wiped away because of a foul and two other shots from Joel Sterling and Trae Rickman that bounced off the crossbar.
“(Blue Springs) really did a better job of keeping the ball on the ground and possessing,” Grice said. “They are really coming around and every match with them is tough. They are the crosstown team.
“We came off a double overtime loss to Park Hill last night and we were pretty shredded. I’ve got to give credit to Blue Springs, they came out with high intensity and they are well coached.”
Wildcats coach Michael Palermo said he feels like his team has closed the gap on South and is hoping to play it during district play later in the season.
“If you went to a percentage of possession, I would give it to them,” said Palermo, whose team fell to 0-11 and 0-5 in the Big Seven, but also played Lee’s Summit North close in a 3-2 loss Monday. “They knocked the ball a little more than us. As far as quality attempts on goal, I think we were right there with them, if not better.
“We fought and we stayed with that team. I think you’ll see a different result the next time we play them.”
While South (4-9, 2-3) did have a slight edge in time of possession, Blue Springs had no shortage of shot attempts as the Jaguars held a 10-6 edge in shots. In the second half, Matt Eisenreich drilled shot from 30 yards out but Hart was in a perfect position to stop it.
Early in the second half, Wildcats senior forward Valentin Mpanga, a transfer from Kansas City East, had a breakaway one-on-one opportunity against Hart. The South goalkeeper challenged him and won when he slid at Mpanga’s feet and smothered the ball before a shot attempt was made. A straight-on shot from Carlos Llamas also was stopped by Hart late in the game.
“We weren’t expecting to lose possession that much,” Hart said. “Our back four really kept us in the game and helped us get possession back. As a keeper, your only choice is to be aggressive on a breakaway. Luckily I got the ball.”
Afterward, Grice bestowed high praise upon his senior keeper.
“Keavin is a top level goalkeeper,” Grice said. “He’s kept us in a lot of games that we otherwise wouldn’t have been in just because he’s just a forged veteran. He’s seen every situation and he’s a great shot stopper.”
South’s lone goal came in the 32nd minute when Johnson, a senior transfer from Plaza Heights Christian Academy, made a shot from a tough angle. He was just inside the end line and Blue Springs goalkeeper Jacob Williams came out to challenge him. Johnson made him pay as he angled a shot inside the near post and over the head of the goalie and a pair of defenders.
“I looked up top and I saw the keeper and he knows that I look top, so he came off his line,” Johnson said. “I saw about six feet of space open and I shot it.”
Added Palermo: “There goal was a result of miscommunication between our goalkeeper and our defensive backs. Our goalkeeper got pulled out, but I think he wanted to stay on his line, so I am not going to give them a quality goal on that. That was us giving away a goal.”
Grice noted Johnson has been a solid contributor on offense and was even surprised that his senior made the shot.
“From where I was standing, it looked like he was on the endline, but he told me he had a better angle than that,” Grice said. “He’s really unselfish. If he was on the endline, he would have found someone to pass it to. He’s doing a great job for us. We just need to keep him healthy.”