While he was in the middle of an interview with the media, Blue Springs boys soccer coach Michael Palermo turned around.
Behind him were four players hoisting a water cooler over their heads, ready to shower their coach.
“Oh, no!” Palermo exclaimed.
He decided to not to try and flee as he was drenched by his jubilant players. Palermo said he was fine with the impromptu shower after his Wildcats defeated crosstown rival Blue Springs South 4-2 in the championship game of the Raytown South Tournament.
“That’s the first time I’ve had that done to me, seriously!” Palermo said. “I’ll take that. It’s worth it. It’s freezing!”
The victory signified a possible resurrengence of the Blue Springs program that had won just 11 games combined in the last four years, including a winless 2017 campaign. It’s also a team that hasn’t had a winning season since 2009.
But if you ask Palermo or any of his players, they say this is a different team. After all, the Wildcats are off to a 3-0 start for the first time in 10 years.
“They are more of a family than a team,” Palermo said. “I don’t know how many games we are going to win, but we’re enjoying it.”
The Wildcats notched another major achievement as they won their first game over South since 2012, ending a 15-game losing streak against their rivals.
“I’ve been here for four years, and honestly, I never thought I’d see the day this would actually happen,” senior Alex Maliwat said. “I am absolutely elated to be a part of a team that wanted this so bad.”
Added Palermo: “It’s been way too long. The senior class has been waiting for this opportunity their whole lives.”
Although, South won the time of possession battle, Blue Springs took advantage of its scoring chances in the first half. Wildcat senior midfielder Carlos Llamas scored his fourth goal of the season when he stole the ball from South goalkeeper Calvin Hays, who was trying to clear it, and punched it into an empty net for the first score three minutes in.
Maliwat extended Blue Springs’ lead to 2-0 with a goal on a Llamas assist in the 11th minute. Then junior Micah Lubin really blew the game open with goals in the 12th and 39th minute. Both goals came off rebounds deep in the 18-yard box.
“He turned a guy that was much bigger than him,” Palermo said of Lubin’s first goal. “That was unbelievable. This year he’s had the opportunity to shine, and he’s been good.”
That was especially true Thursday, and Lubin was pumped for the opportunity against South.
“Ever since I woke up this morning, this game has been on my mind,” Lubin said. “As soon as I stepped on the field I was ready.”
The Wildcats took a 4-0 lead into halftime, but played a more conservative, defensive style in the second half and it almost cost them. The Jaguars dominated the final 40 minutes and got goals from seniors Miller Via and Dumaga Ihenacho, but the Blue Springs defense did just enough to hang on for the win.
“The first half, we didn’t come to play,” South coach Jon Grice said. “Give them credit. They came to play. They had a long streak of not doing well against us, and they proved that was a motivating factor for them.”
Added Maliwat: “They’ve won so many games like this, but today we felt it was our time.”