Eagles fall in sectional playoff
The Grain Valley boys soccer team’s 2020 campaign has been up and down, but it still accomplished something with a Class 3 District 8 championship title.
However, the Eagles were rewarded with a sectional matchup with a St. Louis area team, which ended up being against perennial powerhouse Fort Zumwalt South. Grain Valley wasn’t able to create many scoring chances against the Bulldogs until late in the second half. By then Fort Zumwalt South was well on its way to a 4-0 victory at Moody Murry Field.
“The way the bracket was set up, we were kind of roped into the mid-Missouri and other side of Missouri part,” Grain Valley coach Brett Lewis said. “We knew we had a tough test once we got past districts. Fort Zumwalt South is very, very good. They have a couple of all-state forwards and an all-state center back.
“For the most part, I thought we hung in there with them. Against a team like that, a lot of teams can’t compete very well and I thought we did.”
The Eagles had a hard time stopping Carson Gibbs, who powered the Bulldogs’ offense with a hat trick. He received a through ball from a teammate in the seventh minute and slipped a shot past Grain Valley goalkeeper Ryan Lampe from deep inside the 18-yard box for a 1-0 edge.
About eight minutes later, Riley Gibbs punched in a close-range shot after receiving a cross from a teammate to extend the lead to 2-0. The Bulldogs (20-4) dominated possession in the first half, and controlled the ball for most of the second half as well.
“We held possession, but we weren’t as sharp as we normally are,” Fort Zumwalt South coach Jim Layne said. “I was proud of our guys to get the goals when they needed to.”
They put a lot of pressure on Lampe, who made 11 saves. But he didn’t get support from his offense. Grain Valley sophomore Owen White had an open header halfway inside the penalty box but it was stopped by Luke Dillon.
“He made some saves that were really, really hard,” Lewis said of Lampe. “He helped keep us within an earshot.”
Grain Valley’s JR Brown, Alex Engram and Austin Schmitt had five good looks among them in the second half, but their shots either went just wide of the goal or were stopped by Dillon. Meanwhile, Carson Gibbs scored on a give-and-go and a breakaway in the final 40 minutes to eliminate any doubt of the outcome.
“Their defense is very organized and you can tell that their back four has been playing together for a long time,” Lewis said. “They probably play on the same club teams all year round. There’s a lot of cohesiveness in that group. Both of the centerbacks played at an all-state level.
“We weren’t able to take advantage when we had the wind at our back. The ball bouncing around inside the 6 (yard line), but we couldn’t get a clean hit on it. Normally we would score.”
The Eagles, who had a five-game winning streak snapped, end their season at 9-12 and will lose five seniors to graduation.
“Season-wise, we had some rough spots, but our guys believed in the process and understood their roles,” Lewis said. “In the last five or six games, we were playing really well. There are a lot of teams across the state we could compete with playing like we did in those games.
“These seniors over here are a fantastic group. They set the culture for our program.”