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Falcons avenge last year's loss to Wildcats with title win

By Michael Smith
The Examiner
Van Horn senior forward Edison Rios raises the championship trophy as coach Jesus Rodriguez looks on after the Falcons defeated Blue Springs 2-0 in the finals of the Raytown South Tournament Thursday.

Van Horn coach Jesus Rodriguez remembers last year’s Raytown South Tournament boys soccer championship game, and he was seeking revenge.

Last year, his Falcons lost to Blue Springs 3-0 in the opening round as they fell short of repeating as tournament champions from 2018. As fate would have it, Van Horn matched up with the Wildcats this year in the title match.

This time the result was different.

It wasn’t pretty, but the Falcons made the most of their chances, making both of their shots on goal to claim the first-place trophy after a 2-0 win Thursday at Raytown South High School.

“They press,” Rodriguez said of the Wildcats. “Overall, they are a good team and their players are technically sound. But they are not dangerous like our guys. We have the players where if you leave an open spot, we’re going to put them away.

“This was a tactical battle. We matched up really well and we moved the pieces in and out. We have a phenomenal defense and a phenomenal forward (senior Edison Rios).”

Van Horn's Kobe Otano (19) moves the ball downfield past Blue Springs' Landon Bernhardy in the championship match of the Raytown South Tournament Thursday. Van Horn went on to a 2-0 win.

Van Horn’s offense didn’t have the same flow it has had the past two years. A big reason for that was the graduation of two all-state midfielders in Angel DeAvila and Julio Rios from last year’s team – two who were adept at helping the Falcons maintain possession.

“Those guys had great chemistry together and had great pace,” Rodrigez said of DeAvila and Julio Rios. “Our guys are still struggling (to maintain possession) without them, but the thing we didn’t have with those guys was the subs. All game long I was rotating the center (midfielders) and they just ran, ran, ran.

“We’re not at the level where we can possess the ball with the midfielders yet, but we have depth and we’ll rotate guys in and out. We have some technical guys, they have just never played together.”

Blue Springs' Caden Hoehns (16) battles Van Horn's Valentino Rivas (21) and Diego Coronado (6) for possession in the championship match of the Raytown South Tournament Thursday. Van Horn claimed a 2-0 win and its second title in three years.

Van Horn junior Diego Coronado echoed his coach’s sentiments.

“We lost a lot of seniors from last year, so we are still getting used to it out there,” he said. “I feel like it’s going to get better as the season goes on.”

While Blue Springs (2-1) controlled possession for most of the game, Van Horn’s defense limited the Wildcats to just three shots on goal – all saved by goalkeeper Cooper Sumpter. His biggest save came in the 31st minute when he made a diving stop on a close-range shot from Blue Springs forward Sawyer Turpin.

The Wildcats’ downfall came because of a passive approach when they got close to the 18-yard box. There were a handful of times when coach Mike Palermo thought his team should have shot the ball instead of passing it.

And part of the reason for that was not having a player like Carlos Llamas, a 2020 graduate who scored 22 goals last year.

“I felt we created, I just wish we shot the ball, too,” Palermo said. “We knocked the ball around but that doesn’t put points on the board. We had chances when we were around the 18 that we could have pulled the trigger on maybe.

“We don’t have Carlos Llamas this year, who you can give the ball to and just tell him to go score. We have to score by a committee.”

The Falcons, on the other hand, were more aggressive when they had the ball in Blue Springs’ third of the field. Rios scored the Falcons’ first goal in the seventh minute when he received a nice pass from junior Jorge Venegas and punched a shot inside the left post from the left side of the box.

Blue Springs' Caden Hoehns, front left, and Van Horn defender Tony Chavira battle for a ball in the air in Thursday's Raytown South Tournament championship. Van Horn claimed a 2-0 win.

“I didn’t think I was going to score there,” Rios said. “I just shot it out of nowhere and went to the net and I was so happy.”

Coronado made a similar shot in the 31st minute, His kick from the left wing bounced off the right post and went in for his fourth goal of the season.

“The ball came through and I just looked up and kicked it as hard as I could, and it just happened to go in,” Coronado said. “After that we could just sit back (on defense) and work on keeping the lead.”

RAYTOWN SOUTH 4, BLUE SPRINGS SOUTH 2: The Jaguars fell to 1-2 on the season when they fell to the Cardinals in the third-place game of the Raytown South Tournament.

South scored in the first minute after a goal from Jacksyn McIntyre to take the lead but Raytown South answered in the 24th minute to tie it up.

South’s Tyler Dwyer then scored off an assist from McIntyre to make it 2-1 in the 35th minute, but the Cardinals scored the last three goals in the 50th, 59th and 70th minutes to take the win.