Facing a familiar rival on a rain-slickened field, Grain Valley goalkeeper Bryant Madden figured keeping a clean sheet would be a tall task.
He figured right.
Madden got his clean sheet with a series of acrobatic saves in the second half, and the Eagles needed every one of them to secure a 1-0 victory over Blue Springs Wednesday night at Peve Stadium.
It was the third shutout this season for Madden, a senior, for the 8-3-3 Eagles. And it will certainly be the one he remembers the most.
“It was the hardest, by far,” Madden said.
Madden led a Grain Valley defense that constantly hounded Blue Springs attackers whenever they reached the 18-yard box. The Wildcats (8-6) managed more shots, but they struggled to create serious opportunities.
And when they did, Madden was there to thwart them.
“With it just raining on this field and the surface being slippery, it was harder reading balls that were coming in,” Madden said. “I was just giving it my all and working my hardest back there.”
“We haven’t had a lot of clean sheets this year,” Grain Valley coach Tyler Nichol said. “We’ve given away cheap goals. So the biggest thing was if they were going to score on us, make them earn it. Make it be a good goal.”
Blue Springs’ Matthew Martinez nearly provided that goal late in the second half. Martinez fired a point-blank shot off the left post that looked like it would go in until Madden turned and grabbed it at the last minute.
“I was just trying to read the cross in and adjust myself to where I thought it was going to be,” Madden said. “And it ended up working out for me.”
It certainly left his coach impressed.
“He stood on his head a couple of times, a couple of diving saves,” Nichol said. “The one that pinged off the post, I don’t know how that stayed out of the net.”
Jack Knust found the net for Grain Valley found the net in the 36th minute off an indirect free kick from the top of the box, just a little longer than a penalty kick. Knust’s shot sailed through the Wildcats’ line and high into the net.
Knust said a little trickery helped.
“We’ve had a few of those this season,” Knust said. “Most of the time when we touch the ball, the other team jumps. So we caught them off-guard by faking the first one and they stayed back and I finished it.”
And Grain Valley made that goal stand through a fast-paced and physical second half and put a damper of Blue Springs’ Senior Night. Things got chippier over the final 40 minutes, which saw four yellow cards issued.
“It’s become a little bit of a rivalry game,” said Nichol, a Blue Springs graduate himself. “A lot of these kids play together … we’re just two very familiar programs with each other.”