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Blue Springs soccer finds finishing touch against Grain Valley

By Michael Smith
Special to The Examiner

After struggling to score in a 2-0 loss to Van Horn in the championship game of the Raytown South Tournament last week, Blue Springs boys soccer coach Mike Palermo decided to make adjustments.

One of the main ones meant shifting junior Caden Hoehns from midfielder to forward. The move paid off Wednesday.

Hoehns cut to the middle of the 18-yard box, received a centering pass from sophomore Sawyer Turpin and knocked in what became the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Grain Valley at home.

“We needed a spark,” Palermo said. “We had to try something different. And moving Caden up top paid off for us. Maybe we will keep him there if he can keep scoring.”

Hoehns said the team has had to use a committee approach to replace the scoring of 2020 graduate Carlos Llamas, who led the Wildcats (3-1) with 22 goals last season. On Wednesday, it was his turn to contribute offensively.

“I got a nice pass from Sawyer and I was able to bury it,” Hoehns said. “We have several guys who can score so it can be a different guy every night. We played well as a team and got the job done.”

So did his teammate, sophomore defender Aiden Bousman, who scored the Wildcats’ first goal early in the second half. He took a shot from about 30 feet out that curved toward the center of the goal. Grain Valley goalkeeper Ryan Lampe appeared to be in position to snag the ball, but he slipped and the ball went under him to give Blue Springs a 1-0 lead.

“I actually meant to pass that ball,” Bousman said. “I didn’t mean to shoot it, but hey, it went in. That was my first varsity goal, and I was happy to finally get one.”

Added Palermo: “Aiden is a key piece to our backline along with Colin Berry and Alex Barajas. He doesn’t get to shoot very often, so that was nice to see him get a goal there.”

Blue Springs totaled 10 shots, including eight on goal in the second half, and dominated possession throughout. Possessing the ball hasn’t been the problem for the Wildcats, but finishing chances has been.

“That’s why we are trying something different,” Palermo said. “We keep tweaking things and see what works. We do a great job of knocking the ball around and creating chances; we just need to work on finishing them.”

Grain Valley got its lone goal with 20:37 left when sophomore defender Austin Schmitt punched in a penalty kick to tie the game at 1. The Eagles (1-4) had three shot attempts in the final five minutes, including a header that just went over the goal.

“I am really proud of the way our guys played tonight,” Grain Valley head coach Brett Lewis said. “We fought hard and we had some chances to score, but the shots just didn’t hit the back of the net. We played a lot better than we did against William Chrisman on Tuesday.

“Ryan is starting as varsity goalkeeper for the first year, and he did a great job tonight and made some big saves. He will keep improving as the season goes along.”