The St. Michael the Archangel Catholic boys soccer program is just its second year, but it has already accomplished quite bit through 35 total games.
Even though the Guardians were just 8-17 going into the postseason in 2017, they won the Class 2 District 12 championship.
This year, the growing program has a junior varsity team for the first time, and during Wednesday’s game against Blue Springs, St. Michael added another notch to its belt.
Thanks to an effort goal in overtime from senior forward Stuart Shatto, the Guardians, a Class 2 team, picked up their first win against a Class 4 program in a 2-1 victory at Peve Stadium.
“I had a guy on my back and I was just thinking, ‘I have to goal all the way through, make sure I get this touch and put in the goal,’” said Shatto, who had teammates dogpile on top of him after the goal. “This win boosts our confidence and tells us that we may be small, but we sure are mighty. We’re coming for the state championship.”
In a game in which both teams took turns controlling possession for long spurts, St. Michael did it when it mattered most. Shatto received a through ball from senior midfielder Dan Jakoble and dribbled it deep inside the 18-yard box. Blue Springs goalkeeper Jacob Williams got his body on it and the ball went straight up after Shatto’s first shot attempt. However, he ran around Williams and got a second touch on the ball right in front of the goalmouth for the game-winner.
“It was difficult to tell if he was going to get to it or not from here,” Guardians head coach Rob Putthoff said. “Luckily he was able to get to it. Stuart always works his tail off for us. He creates opportunities for us. He’s our second leading scorer.”
It was a big win for a young team with just three seniors and no juniors. But the outcome may not have been as surprising as it appeared on the surface. The Guardians (3-4) were well prepared to face a larger school like Blue Springs. They had two games against Class 4 schools coming in, including Blue Springs South and Park Hill South.
“We’ve played some big schools with lots of talent,” Putthoff said. “We’ve had moments against those teams. It’s definitely prepared us for games like this, especially going into overtime. A win like this helps build or program.”
The tough early-season schedule nearly paid dividends in the first half. St. Michael controlled possession for most of it and had a 3-2 edge in shots on goal. One shot attempt from Shatto was taken 4 feet from the goal when Williams was out of position, but Blue Springs junior defender Alex Maliwat was at the middle of the net to stop the shot and clear it.
Another wide-open shot inside the 18-yard box from Guardians freshman midfielder Keegan LeNeave ricocheted off the bottom of the crossbar.
The game remained scoreless going into halftime, but St. Michael finally got on the board in the 49th minute. St. Michael sophomore midfielder Chris Oberkrom received a long pass and sent a cross from the left side of the penalty box to the front of the goalmouth. Shatto made a perfect run and snuck a shot under the diving Williams for a 1-0 lead.
“I was just thinking, ‘Keep it low and don’t hit it over,’ and it just snuck right underneath the keeper,” Shatto said.
Blue Springs turned up the intensity in the final 25 minutes and controlled possession. The Wildcats (2-4) finally got the equalizer in the 72nd minute sophomore midfielder Matthew Martinez got a through ball to Maliwat, who sent a diagonal shot from the left wing past diving St. Michael goalkeeper Vincent Haggerty.
Jakoble nearly made a game-winning direct free kick in the final 10 seconds, but Williams leaped up and to his right to make a miraculous save to keep it tied. But in the end, it was not enough for a Blue Springs team that lacked effort for most of the game, according to assistant coach Brett Lewis.
“We’re in a funk, kind of like we were last year,” said Lewis, whose team had a total of one win in 2016 and 2017 combined. “We’re lacking some toughness and lacking some leadership right now. We’re really doing everything we can to turn this thing around, but sometimes there is a lack of effort or a big mistake in the back. We just have to be better.”