I’m proud to share with you a Class 3 preview by Eddie Horn, Jefferson City Jays Head Coach who hosted 3 of the 4 Class 3 champions at his annual Art Firley Classic tournament earlier this season. His Jays lost to Rock Bridge in the Central Region Sectional. In addition, Joe Toigo, Head Coach at Park Hill South offers additional background on the Rockhurst Hawks. Park Hill South lost in the Quarterfinals to Rockhurst this year and is very familiar with Chris Lawson’s squad. Now here’s Eddie with his preview. Joe’s contribution is included below with the Rockhurst report.
The “Clash of the Titans” could be the theme of the Class 3 Final 4 this weekend in Blue Springs. Chaminade will be making its 7th appearance under Mike Gauvain, Rock Bridge is making its 3rd straight appearance under first year head coach Alex Nichols, CBC is making its 17th appearance under “The Legend” Terry Michler and the Rockhurst Hawklets will be making their 15th appearance including a run of 12 consecutive appearances from 1997-2008 under Chris Lawson.
Both Semi-Final games will be re-matches of regular season contests. Chaminade defeated Rock Bridge earlier in the season in Indianapolis on PK’s after a 2-2 draw while CBC defeated Rockhurst in Overtime in the Art Firley Classic in Jefferson City. If round one is any indication, then round two should be classic. Coaches Michler and Gauvain are well aware of the difficult task of beating a quality opponent twice in the same season, meanwhile Coaches Lawson and Nichols are using the earlier losses to build belief in their players that they cannot be beaten twice.
• CBC Cadets (24-5-1) vs. Rockhurst Hawklets (19-9-1), at Blue Springs South, 4 p.m. Friday
The first fixture of the evening in Class 3 will be Rockhurst vs. CBC. This game puts two storied programs against each other: the Hawklets consistently represent the KC Metro area in the Championship weekend vs the most consistent program from St Louis. To be an average team at CBC High School under Coach Michler, you must win 20 games. Let me say it another way, over the last 41 years his teams AVERAGE 20 wins a season. This game obviously puts two of the great tacticians in High School soccer against each other. Both coaches should be commended for the job they did this season in getting to the Semi Finals with the loss of so many quality players to the Academy system.
Some could argue that the CBC Cadets are on “borrowed time” due to their journey to get to Blue Springs. In the district Championship game, they were up 2-0 on a very dangerous and quality side in Marquette and appeared to be cruising before Coach Chris Kenney’s Mustangs leveled the game at 2. CBC weathered the storm and went on to win 4-2 and lived to play another day. In the sectional game, they faced a Lafayette team that was the upset kings and the Lancers about pulled off their third of the tournament. Tim Walter’s side gave the Cadets fits before CBC pulled out a 2-1 win with about 11 minutes remaining. In the Quarter Final round the Cadets and the Golden Griffins from Vianney faced off for the 4th time this season. Dave Gauvain’s side had the Cadets down 2-1 with just under 8 minutes to play before Coach Michler’s side came up with two late goals for a 3-2 win, their 4th consecutive win over Vianney this season and the Cadets 17th trip to the final 4.
The Rockhurst Hawklets were a bit more of a “Box of Chocolates” this season compared to the teams Coach Lawson has had in the past. Entering the post season with a modest 15-9-1 un-Rockurst like record, it was a big question mark if it would be the second consecutive year without the Hawklets making an appearance in the Semi-Finals. Rockhurst defeated a Ray-Pec team that had beaten them earlier on PKs and had to turn around and play a quality Lee Summit West team they tied earlier in the season the very next day. To schedule the district championship game the day after the semi-final game is an embarrassment to our sport.
After posting a 1-0 win in the district final, they turned their attention to Lee Summit North. The Tim Richardson side held onto the second ranked spot in the state most of the year but lost to the “Rock” about a week and a half earlier. In that game, the Rockhurst back line was able to shut out the lethal scoring of North’s Michael Panarisi, but would they be as fortunate in the second leg with the season riding on it?
In a word, Yes. Rock moved into the Quarterfinal round with a 1-0 win and another shut out of Panarisi’s scoring touch. The Hawklets are in the Semi-finals after avenging an earlier 1-0 loss to Joe Toigo’s Park Hill South side. Rockhurst posted a 2-0 win over South as the Hawklets are yet to give up a goal in the post season.
This game is a hard one for me to predict. The game will start with the Hawklets in their favorite 4-3-3 shape but the Cadets have played with such a variety of shapes through out the season, it is hard to guess how “Papa Bears” side will start the game. My guess is he will start the game in a 3-5-2 and then see how the game develops and make adjustments as the game dictates. There is no one better at reading what is going on inside the game and adjusting than Coach Michler. He is a formidable opponent that you can hide from for a while, but he will find you and exploit any weakness in your players or team. He also knows the Dutch system of play, 4-3-3 better than anyone. As the game develops, here is what I will be watching for in this one:
* The Hawklet players must be simple in their approach with quick ball circulation and must connect passes forward and wide to exploit the CBC back line.
* Can the Rock take advantage of the chances that they generate? That seems to be the one area that has hurt the Hawklets this season, with the loss of Cole Stevenson to the Academy system, they were left without a true finisher.
* Will the Cadets exploit the space left open by the absence of true wide men for Rockhurst.
* Can CBC deal with the pressure Rockhurst places on your back line with 3 forwards.
* The box organization of CBC vs Rockhurst restarts .
* Can CBC play enough balls into the box to force the Rockhurst keeper into decisions to come off his line or stay at home?
* Can Rockhurst manage the last 15 minutes of the game when the “Cardiac Cadets” seem to be at their best?
* Watch the battle between Xhovani Dokaj (#5) of CBC and Brendan Marquart of Rockhurst. Both players have been invited to participate in the 2nd High School All-American game along with Chaminade’s Shillingsford and Pesek.
When the final whistle blows on Friday, this game could very well be heading to extra time or even the spot to settle it with penalties. It will take a special goal to go into Saturday. I anticipate this being a battle and whomever comes out on top could be a little nicked up facing Chaminade in the final.
For Joe Toigo’s take on the Rockhurst Hawklets, scroll down past Eddie’s report on the second game of the weekend below where he also offers his prediction of the weekends outcome. It will be worth your while!
• Chaminade Red Devils (24-2-2) vs. Rock Bridge Bruins (21-7-1), at Blue Springs South, 6 p.m. Friday
Coming into the weekend, Chaminade would be my favorite to win its 4th title. The Red Devils have held onto the #1 ranking in the MSHSSCA state poll all season, and “Vader” seems to have pushed all of the right buttons up to this point. They are led by Tommy Barlow’s 25 goals, but he has plenty of support around him. His partner up top, Jordan Bay, has 20 goals, Jason Pesek who has been invited to play in the High School All-American game is patrolling the midfield, and another invite to the All-American game, Curt Shillingsford, is anchoring a solid back line.Rock Bridge comes into the game with a quiet confidence after a dominating run through the play-offs to make it 3 straight appearances for the Bruins. First year coach, Alex Nichols, will be trying to win the first title in boys soccer in Rock Bridge school history. While the Bruins may be the dark horse as the “out state” representative, there are plenty of reasons to believe they can win it all. They are the only team that returns to the Final Four from last season, and that experience could be big. They also have to believe that the more times you get there, sooner or later the “soccer gods” will reward you with a favorable bounce, break or goal to put you through to the finals. They have a great keeper in Greg Kelly, two creative midfielders in Eli Sherman and Sanil Gumati and the freshman sensation Tarnue Tyler. The left footed Tyler leads the team in scoring with 21 goals.
I expect Chaminade to come out in their classic 4-4-2 vs. the Bruins 3-5-2. Early in the game it will be interesting to see which team can impose its will on the game and put the other team on their back foot. Things to watch for as the game settles into its rhythm:
* Can Rock Bridge’s 3 back system deal with Chaminade’s front runner duo of Barlow and Bay?
* Is Pesak good enough to dominate the Midfield even when he is outnumbered in the middle of the park?
* Can Chaminade find their front runners feet, or is Gumati going to cut those passes out and start dangerous counters for Rock Bridge?
* Is the Freshman Tyler strong enough physically for Rock Bridge to create vs. Chami’s back 4?
* Can Eli Sherman get involved in the attack consistently to create opportunities for the Rock Bridge forwards?
*Will Rock Bridge sit deep and try to play on the break or will they come to win the game outright and carry the play to the Red Devils?
When the final whistle blows, I think the Red Devils will have something to play for on Saturday. With 5 players electing to wear the Red of Chaminade instead of the Green of the St Louis Scott Gallagher Academy program, Vader’s side played with the same purpose all season: to win it all. It would be a nice reward for the Chaminade players that had a hard decision and elected to roll the dice on a State Championship, wearing the Red and playing in front of massive crowds of Red Army fans representing Chaminade High School.
As the sun goes down in Kansas City on Saturday, I predict the Red Devils will be raising the trophy for their 4th state championship.
Head Coach Joe Toigo, Park Hill South who lost to Rockhurst in the Quarterfinal offers his thoughts on the Hawklets opportunity and what to expect below.
Rockhurst returns to the Final Four after a one year absence. The 2010 Champions got here by avenging several losses from the past two seasons. In the semifinals of Districts they were victorious over Raymore-Peculiar who had defeated them earlier in the season in Penalty Kicks. In the District Championships it was last year’s final four representative from Kansas City, Lee’s Summit West, 1-0. Sectionals renewed a long standing rivalry with Lee’s Summit North. The teams met twice this season with Rockhurst coming out on top twice 1-0, both wins were secured by goals scored late in the match. The Sectional goal a Jim Brazeal converted penalty kick with 3 minutes to play.
In the Quarterfinals Rockhurst was opposing my Park Hill South squad that had defeated them 1-0 off a throw-in with about 5 minutes left in the match on October 9th. Park Hill South had much success this season, but struggled to score most of the season, scoring only 2.14 goals a game while surrendering only .76 per game. This game was going to be much harder for the Panthers as they had lost 3 starters, one each game, to injury during the playoffs. The most recent was center back Adam Weatherly, who was also the second leading scorer for the team, and the goal scorer vs. Rockhurst in Game 1.
Very similar to the game in October, Rockhurst had much of the possession. In the first half moving with the wind the Panthers were able to manage several scoring opportunities. The best of which when Alex Weatherly dribbled a Rockhurst defender on the end line and slid a ball past the keeper. What seemed to be a certain goal was erased by a hustling Brendan Maquardt clearing the ball before it crossed the line. The result was a 0-0 half time score.
In the second half Rockhurst increased the pressure of the South goal. Similar to South the Hawklets have struggled to score from the run of play this season. Fortunately they have 2 players who can serve long throw-in’s into dangerous areas, and Brazeal has continued the legacy of free kick specialists that have worn the blue and white.
Well as they say, live by the sword die by the sword. What provided victory for South in October, led to the defeat on this afternoon. The goal that Rock eventually scored was off a long throw. Robert Kelley played a strong throw into the box, which was initially cleared. Kelly then controlled the ball and played a good service back into the six that Kyle McClagan was able to nod home for the lead with about 17 minutes to play. Facing elimination South was forced to change the formation to try and get the equalizer, a few attempts were blocked successfully by the defense.
Then with 3 minutes to play a strong run by Alec Grawe on the right flank created an opportunity to score. His service was misplayed by a defender and found the foot of Brazeal who easily scored on the South keeper.
Scouting report/analysis: The Rock is battle tested and has already played CBC once this season. They seem to have settled into a set line, after battling injury and illness for a good part of the year. Playing their traditional Dutch 4-3-3, with a little Brazilian style added to it. This is to say they like to push the wing backs into the attack, Michael Smith on the left, and Andy VanBuskirk on the right. They seem to favor the path to goal being left wing Ethan Kemp, and then crash the goal from the weak side, and midfielders filling the slots. As the season has progressed two things have become certain, restarts are key to their victories (short corners, free kicks, and long throws), and they will be difficult to score on. Thus far in the playoffs Garret Loehr has backstopped 4 consecutive shutouts.
My thanks to Coach Horn and Coach Toigo for offering their experienced voices to this discussion. How about you folks? Any predictions?
• at Blue Springs South, 10 a.m. Saturday
• at Blue Springs South, 4 p.m. Saturday
All games will be streamed on www.foxsportsmidwest.com. Following the championships, the video will be archived on www.MSHSAA.tv. The Girls Final 4 streams were pretty good, I’d recommend them if you want to catch the games but can’t make it to Blue Springs.