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Strong start helps Jaguars avenge earlier loss to Falcons

By Michael Smith
The Examiner

Blue Springs South head coach Jon Grice and his players remembered the losses they had on Wednesday against Lee’s Summit North (6-3) and Van Horn (4-2) back on Sept. 1.

The Jaguars had a rematch with the Falcons Thursday. To wash the taste out of their mouths from those losses, they knew they had to do two things – start fast and finish strong.

That is exactly what South did as it scored two goals in the first 20 minutes and made a strong defensive effort in the final 20 minutes to prevent Van Horn from scoring the tying goal in a 2-1 victory at home.

“We played the best first half of soccer that we have played all year,” Grice said. “We opened up and played wide open possession. We didn’t try to force anything. We played simple, clean possession-based soccer.”

Because the Jaguars (6-8) played the Falcons (12-4) earlier in the year, they knew what type of style their opponent would play, which made them better prepared. It also helped to get two important players back from injury in defender Jackson Keeton and forward Jacksyn McIntyre.

“It’s difficult to play against high pressure early in the year and later in the year it’s still tough,” Grice said. “We got Jackson Keeton back; we didn’t have him the week of the Raytown South Tournament. It’s been nice having him back, he’s the anchor of our defense.

“We played some tough teams like Liberty and Lee’s Summit North this week and now we are now primed and up to speed. When we played against Van Horn (in the semifinals of the Raytown South Tournament), we had just played against St. Michael and they played low pressure, so we figured we could do what we wanted. We scored a couple of goals in that game but Van Horn ran over us at the end.”

Coming into this game, Grice knew it would be a challenge to stop Van Horn from scoring. In the second half, when his team was ahead 2-0, Falcons junior midfielder Kobe Otano received a cross from senior forward Edison Rios. He kicked the ball in mid-air, making a close-range shot near the right post to cut the lead to 2-1.

“They are very dangerous,” Grice said of Van Horn, which is ranked No. 7 in the Class 3 state coaches poll. “They can score from their box, to the back of our net in under a minute, so the game was never out of hand because of how dangerous they are, how well-coached they are and how good they are on the counter.”

After that goal, Van Horn created some chances but had a hard time getting a clean shot off because the Jaguars defense tightened up by getting a handful of deflections and blocks on Falcon shots. The closest the Falcons came to getting a goal was when Rios knocked in a bicycle kick, but it was waved off by an offsides call.

“I can trust in them fully,” South senior midfielder Diego Jimenez said of the Jaguars’ defense. “They are all really good players. We couldn’t have won without them.”

Van Horn coach Jesus Rodriguez said his team tried a different formation – a 2-5-3 – and it had success in the second half. However, it wasn’t enough to get his Falcons the equalizer.

“The formation works against teams that aren’t pressing us and aren’t too technical,” Rodriguez said. “We created some chances up top, but we got scored on twice in that formation. It bit us in the butt.

“We had people in the area when they had the ball in the box, unfortunately we couldn’t clear them out. They had total possession in the first 20 minutes. Then we said, ‘Hey, why don’t we push them out.’ Once we did that, we dominated that game.”

Jimenez scored his team’s first goal when he ran straight down the middle of the Falcons’ 18-yard box and he received a cross from McIntyre and snuck a shot past Van Horn goalkeeper Cooper Sumpter.

“When he crossed it in, it must have just been a habit because I don’t remember my foot hitting it, I just remember the touch,” Jimenez said. “My eyes were closed.”

Jimenez assisted on the Jaguars’ second goal when he ran a give-and-go with Collin Flanigan, who buried the point-blank shot.

“I feel like this will boost our confidence and morale because we saw that we can play better,” Jimenez said. “Yesterday (the loss to Lee’s Summit North), we didn’t play too well. Today was a completely different team.”

Added Flanigan: “We had a lot more intensity (than the first game against Van Horn) and we just kept fighting.”