Cassville strikers shock College Heights in district play
The fourth time proved to be the charm for the third-seeded Cassville Wildcats soccer team (9-13-10) against the second-seeded College Height Cougars (16-7) as the Wildcats advanced to the Class 1, District 12 championship with a 3-2 double overtime victory on Oct. 30.
"College Heights is a tough and well coached team," said Cassville coach Andrew Hoskins. "I told the boys that the pressure was all on the Cougars. I challenged them to play hard for 80 minutes. I am so proud of my squad tonight."
The Wildcats were facing a Cougars squad that had already handed them three losses this season. Furthermore, the games had been decided by lop sided scores of 8-1, 5-1 and 4-1.
Cassville's defense kept Tuesday night's game close early.
Goalie Indy Cole made a diving stop in the eighth minute and stopped a penalty kick in the 10th minute.
College Heights kept up the attack and finally scored in the 19th minute off Josiah Braeckel's header.
"I kept telling our guys to not quit," said Cole. "We kept our heads up and fought back."
The Cougars took a 2-0 lead in the 46th minute when freshman Kellen Grantham bent a corner kick into the Wildcats' goal.
Instead of wilting, Cassville went on the offensive.
David Verde was awarded a penalty kick in the 50th minute to cut the lead to 2-1.
"I told the boys to keep attacking," said Hoskins. "College Heights is a physical team and, I knew that we could get calls if we kept pushing."
Following their coach's instructions the Wildcats played the remainder of regulation on the attack. Verde and Brady Pry combined for four free kicks due to their aggressive play.
In the 72nd minute, Verde unleashed a free kick from 25 yards. College Heights' goalie Caleb Stratton was unable to secure the ball in his hands, and Kendal Branham flicked the rebound into the net to knot the score 2-2.
The Wildcats stopped four shots on goal in the final two minutes of regulation. Each shot was cleared by long kicks by Cole.
The first overtime session proved to be a defensive struggle. Neither team managed a shot on goal.
The Wildcats dug deep and found extra energy in the second overtime frame.
With less than three minutes remaining in the contest, Verde earned another free kick from 20 yards out. Seeing an opening, Verde sent the Wildcat faithful into a tizzy with a shot that flew into the right side of the net.
"I knew I had to take a shot," said Verde. "The goalie had been cheating over to his left all night on (free) kicks. I hit it as hard as I could, and it went in."
An emotional Hoskins was at a loss of words after the match.
"What a team. What a great win," Hoskins told his Wildcats. "Our work is not done. We have one more game."
Cassville will face top-seeded Monett in the district title on Nov. 1. Kickoff is set for 5 p.m. in Cassville.