Blue Springs falls just short in both games at state

Bill Althaus
The Examiner
The Blue Springs boys soccer team players pose with their medals after falling 3-2 in a penalty kick shootout to John Burroughs in the Class 5 state third-place game Saturday night. Not seen is freshman Vincent Croney, back left, who makes coach Michael Palermo, front left, look like he has more hair.

FENTON, Mo. — Less than 24 hours after his Blue Springs boys soccer team lost a 3-2 heartbreaker to John Burroughs Saturday in the Class 4 third-place state game, coach Mike Palermo lavished praise on his Wildcats. 

"It was 2-0 going into the second half and we're playing one of the best teams in the state and Caden Hoehns – who else? – scores, and then with 25 minutes left in the game Garrett Alsup ties it at 2-all," said Palermo, who has been named the Region 3 Coach of the Year. 

"We went into two 15-minute overtime periods with the score tied and they eventually won it on PKs. We played 240 minutes of soccer Friday and Saturday and our guys gave it everything they had. I couldn't be any prouder of them." 

And Palermo wants to make sure his players know that. 

"We got home about 1 a.m. Sunday morning so we didn't have much time to talk," he added, "so I sent them all a message this morning because I wanted them to know how proud I was of them – and their parents, and all our fans, who helped make for a great environment at state." 

Blue Springs soccer players huddle at midfield after a 3-2 shootout loss to John Burroughs in the Class 4 state third-place game Saturday.

Blue Springs, which finished 15-10, lost 2-1 to Jackson in double overtime in the state semifinal game, setting up the Saturday third-place contest against 18-7-1 John Burroughs. 

"It's been a quarter of a century since we went to the final four," said Palermo, who played for the Wildcats in the final four in 1992. "I can tell you that as a player, and now, as a coach, it's something you never forget. There are nerves and a lifetime of memories. 

"Sure, we went to state to win it all. And we didn't get that done, but we gave it absolutely everything we had. I mean, we're down 2-0 in the third-place game and get those two goals in the second have to tie it, then play two OT periods. You can't play any more after that, and they had a more experienced team and won on PKs.” 

Hoehns booted a free kick into the top left corner of the net in the 63rd minute to pull the Wildcats within one. Alsup got the tying goal off a feed from Justin Skinker in the 75th minute. 

But the Wildcats lost 3-2 in the shootout. 

"Right now it stings, but the guys on this team are now part of a brotherhood that I was honored to be a part of back in 1992,” Palermo said. “You remember every guy from a team that makes the final four. 

"And now, what we're doing at Blue Springs and what Jon (Grice) and Todd (Findley) have done at Blue Springs South – we're putting Blue Springs back on the soccer map, and that feels so good." 

Palermo has never won a conference title in 21 years as a head coach, and this year he won a district crown and went to the final four for the first time as a coach. 

"I didn't know if I'd ever be dealt a hand that would get to the final four, and the guys we had this year made it happen, and I am forever thankful," an emotional Palermo said. "Their dream came true and my dream, as a coach, came true and I can't think of a better group of guys to share that with." 

Hoehns was named the Region 3 Player of the Year. Blue Springs defender Will Rusk also earned a spot on the Region 3 team.