Before the season began, Oak Grove boys soccer coach Zach Herzig was champing at the bit to face his former team – the Grain Valley Eagles.
He was the assistant at Grain Valley for two years and credits a lot of his coaching knowledge to Eagles head coach Tyler Nichol.
On Tuesday, Herzig got his first opportunity to go against his former team, and in this one, the mentor defeated the student in a 4-0 Grain Valley win at Moody Murry Memorial Field.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Nichol, whose team improved to 7-6 overall and 3-1 in the MRVC West. “Zach is a great guy. He’s going to have a ton of success there and he really already has. He’s had a great year over there. I feel for them over there because they were really excited for this one.
“We text a lot, almost every day. We’re really close friends. There was not too much banter or anything.”
After a lengthy postgame meeting with his Panthers (12-6, 3-2), Herzig admitted this moment was one he had been looking forward to for a while, but said his team did not play up to par against its Missouri River Valley Conference West rivals.
“It was an interesting thing, and brought back some good memories,” Herzig said of playing the Eagles. “I am speechless right now because of the way my players played and the attitude they brought. I am still pretty upset about it. We will try to recover from that and learn from our experience.
“The last two games haven’t been the same as the team that played three really good games last week. It felt like we were sleeping. (Grain Valley) wanted it more than us. It’s going to be a long, sad night.”
Grain Valley senior forward Brandon Speigle and sophomore midfielder Jack Knust, both of whom scored two goals each, admitted some of the Eagles players were exchanging a little friendly razzing with Herzig before the game, but the team tried to treat it like any other contest.
“We weren’t going into this necessarily do that to them, trying to beat (Herzig) personally,” Speigle said, “but we attacked this game like we would normally.
“There was a little bit of (teasing) going on before the game, but nothing too serious.”
Aside from knocking off their rivals, it was a productive day for them.
Speigle, who had been struggling to score most of the year, scored on a close-range shot off a Knust corner kick and pried the ball away from Panthers goalkeeper Isaiah Weathers, and snuck a shot past a defender and into an empty net.
“He’s been struggling to score and he’s been showing that a little bit, wearing his emotions on his sleeve,” Nichol said of Speigle. “We just tell him to continue to battle. And he showed that mentality tonight.”
Knust scored from 25 yards out on a direct free kick and launched a missile inside the left post on his other score.
“He’s such a good player and he hasn’t shown how good he really is yet,’ Nichol said of Knust. “I think there’s a little bit of that, ‘Hey I am a sophomore. I am not that big of a guy in stature.’ I don’t care if you are a sophomore or a senior, you are good enough to take over games.”