'The rivalry is back': Here's how Blue Springs edged Blue Springs South for bragging rights
How close was the nail-biting, hand-wringing Blue Springs 1-0 Suburban Big Eight soccer victory over crosstown rival Blue Springs South?
With five seconds left, defender John Chambers fired a rocket toward Wildcats goalkeeper Tristian Hoyle, when midfielder Caden Hoehns came out of nowhere to head the ball away as the final whistle sounded.
"Man, when he took that shot, I was like, 'I have to stop it,'" said Hoyle, who made a handful of big saves throughout the rain-filled night, "and then Caden came over and blocked it, and I was, 'Thanks man!' It was a great way to end the night."
Blue Springs coach Michael Palermo agreed as his Wildcats improved to 7-4 overall and 3-2 in the conference.
"It was a classic Blue Springs-Blue Springs South game. The rivalry is back – really back," Palermo said. "And it's great for our seniors to win their final game at home against their crosstown rival.
"These guys all know each other. Some play on the same club teams, and this is a big deal. I was really happy with the way we played, and it was huge to take the early lead."
He paused for a minute, and added, "And Todd (Findley, South head coach) is a great man, a friend and a great coach, and it's just fun to play that crosstown rival when both teams are playing well. And you hold your breath every time Jacksyn (McIntyre) had the ball – he's as good as they come."
In the 34th minute, forward Mason Willier scored the lone goal of the game.
"At the time we didn't know it was going to be a game-winner," Palermo said, "but it's so big to take an early lead because they have to play catch-up. And they have to score two goals to beat you, and we're playing the type of soccer right now where it's tough to score two goals against our defense."
Hoehns agreed with his coach.
"We take so much pride in our defense, and this guy (Hoyle) was the man tonight in goal," Hoehns said. "I thought we really played well all 80 minutes. They were much more aggressive in the second half, and we were able to keep them from scoring ..."
As Hoyle added: "It was a team effort. All the guys contributed tonight. It was a team win, and it's always great to beat South. We have a lot of friends over there, and it's great to play against them, especially when we win."
While Willier scored the lone goal, he too credited the team's defensive effort for the win.
"We played great defense tonight and Tristian was great in goal," Willier said. "And it was cool to score the first goal. When you score first against a really good team like South, it gives you extra confidence and I think we used that confidence to win the game."
South’s Findley had a long, friendly chat with Palermo after the game and they each wished their respective teams luck the rest of the season.
"Mike is a great guy, and I'm happy for him, he's doing great things with the team," Findley said after his team fell to 6-3-2 and 3-2. "As far as our guys go, we just slept-walked through the first half, and that was addressed at halftime.
"I don't know if it was the rain, the fact that the JV game was canceled or the early start, but we didn't play the way we're capable of playing in the first half and that's disappointing.
"We came out and played much better in the second half, but you can't play 40 minutes of soccer and expect to beat a team like Blue Springs.”