Blue Springs South’s seniors gathered off to the side Wednesday at Independence All-School Stadium for a picture with the district championship plaque.
After all, district titles is all they’ve ever known.
South shut out Fort Osage 3-0 for the Class 4 District 14 championship, marking the fourth year in a row the Jaguars have advanced to the state playoffs.
“It’s huge,” South coach Jon Grice said of winning four straight district titles. “It’s a testament to our seniors, to our juniors, to our captains and to the guys who came before us. It’s the first time in school history we’ve won four in a row, and the boys are excited about that.”
The Jaguars (11-14) dominated possession and shots against an Indians squad that for the majority of the first half kept six defenders on its back line and tried to play the ball to prolific goal-scoring forward Jake Lammering when it did have the ball.
“We were able to stick with the game plan tonight and that was important,” Grice said. “We knew that Fort Osage is very well-coached, they work hard and (Lammering) is a special player. We knew their goalkeeper was solid and we knew it was going to take some patience. Early on the plan was to keep the ball on the ground, be patient and find our openings when they exist.”
South threatened to score a couple of times before breaking through minutes before halftime.
Junior Zian Trober out-leapt everyone on Brett Vaughn’s throw-in into the box and headed it past Fort Osage goalie Kaia Tupinio.
“It was a great throw-in by Brett,” Trober said. “I found some space and finished it. Getting that first goal is important when you play a (defensive-minded team) like them because it opens everything up. It puts the stress on them to pull out on us, then we can open our attack up a little more.”
Trober’s goal forced Fort Osage (17-5) to do just that, and Bryce Millican took advantage of more free space in second half’s opening minute.
Running onto a long pass, Millican beat a defender along the end line and slid the ball into the net.
“It was a good ball in and I just had the right positioning at the right time,” Millican said. “That gave us a cushion goal. It made us relax a bit more and made the game a little easier.”
Grice noted getting that second goal right after halftime was key.
“The first goal felt good, but you’re still worried because of how dangerous (Lammering) is,” he said. “You don’t feel comfortable. … At halftime we talked about getting a little more direct with our play, then Bryce scores a minute into the second half and we opened it up from there.”
Millican scored on a breakaway in the 53rd minute for the game’s final goal, making the rest of the contest a formality as staunch as South’s defense was playing.
“All season we’ve been talking about this time of year,” Jaguars senior defender Nick Landon said. “We’ve had a lot of injuries this year and we’ve been fighting to stay fit and play our best soccer at the end of the season. Tonight we took the approach that a best defense is a good offense. We were trying to keep the ball as long as possible, because if they don’t have the ball they can’t do anything with it.”
Though his team’s season came to a close, Indians coach Michael Brown told his team to hold its head high after finishing 17-5.
“South played really well tonight,” he said. “We’ve seen them play a lot and I think that’s the best I’ve seen them play. We fought and did a lot of things right; it just didn’t happen for us. But the guys have had a great season. Every single player has contributed in some form or fashion and I was telling them after the game that 17 wins, there’s nothing to be upset about after that.”
Grice said the Jaguars would enjoy their achievement for a short time before looking toward the sectional round. They face Rockhurst or Truman Tuesday.
“This has been a goal all year,” he said, “but we’re still not content until we get to that next level, and that’s figuring out how to get past the sectional round.”