By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Monett, Mo. — Calvin Sanders couldn’t have picked a better night for a breakout performance.
The Catholic senior notched a haul Thursday afternoon, as Class 2 No. 1 Springfield Catholic downed No. 10 Monett 4-0 at Burl Fowler Stadium.
“I couldn’t imagine it,” Sanders said of his four-goal performance. “I was just out playing the game and, luckily, I netted four. I’m just happy our team could get the win and, hopefully, we keep improving.”
From the opening touch, Catholic was the more aggressive squad. Whether on the ground or in the air, the Irish dominated 50-50 balls in the first half.
That early aggression allowed Catholic to control momentum and put Monett in an uncomfortable position, according to Irish head coach Mike Hines.
“It’s our bread and butter,” Hines said. “In the past, we’ve been what people would call a second-half team. We have some guys on the field with some really good motors. If someone’s a little bit, you know … not awake, then we can take advantage of it. I think that’s what happened tonight.”
By dominating the early possessions, it didn’t take long for Catholic’s scoring opportunities to materialize.
Senior Hunter Skornia broke through on the far left side and fired a long crosser to the far right corner of the penalty box.
Sanders was waiting and made quick work to put the Irish up 1-0.
Later in the half, lighting struck twice, as Skornia again broke through down the left sideline.
A crosser to junior Trey Garoutte was quickly pushed to Sanders, who converted the brace for a 2-0 Catholic lead.
Hines praised his squad’s execution on the score.
“I got very excited about that second goal, because we worked on it in practice,” Hines said. “It’s nice when you’re taking things from the drawing board, applying it on the field and then they execute it.”
With a two-goal cushion, Catholic was able to concentrate on smothering Monett scoring phenom Jason Puente.
The Class 2 Player of the Year, Puente spent most of the game marked by multiple defenders and found open space at a premium.
Hines attributed Catholic’s defensive success on the afternoon partially due to familiarity with the senior Puente’s game.
“[Puente] is a great player,” Hines said. “I’m blessed because Calvin Sanders and Hunter Skornia play with him on his club team. We don’t have him figured out, but we have tendencies. When we see him do one thing, we have people coming in to help from the back side. It’s just unrealistic to expect one person to shut him down.”
Midway through the second half, Catholic converted a pair of goals to put the match effectively out of reach.
Sanders, of course, found the back of the net on both scores. The first on an assist from Skornia and, finally, a curtain call rocket off a direct free kick.
“I’ve had a policy over the years; we had guys that could really score goals, and we always felt like we didn’t want to show anybody up,” Hines said of Sanders’ opportunities. “So, that’s kind of how we’ve always approached that, but tonight, Calvin did a great job, and I’ll take every one of them that he had. I’m really happy for him.”
Despite the loss, Monett head coach Cristobal Villa looked forward to the teaching opportunities.
“Definitely, I think the hustling on the field was something we didn’t do in the first half,” Villa said. “I told them we have to anticipate the ball, we have to try to get the 50-50 the other way and make them make a mistake.”
Villa was quick to point out the fact his players had been in a similar situation the previous year, and he hoped the result would serve as motivation moving forward. The Cubs lost 3-0 to Catholic early in the 2017 school year before eliminating the Irish 1-0 in the postseason sectional round.
“I’m glad to get this off our backs,” Villa said. “I’d rather lose it now than later. We have a lot to work on, they’ll get to see a lot of things and, hopefully, we’ll be ready if we get to see them again.”
Both teams are back in action next week. Catholic (9-1) travels to Carl Junction Tuesday, Sept. 25, while Monett (9-2) visits Republic Thursday, Sept. 27.
Varsity Final: Catholic – 4, Monett – 0
First half scoring
3:48 Catholic goal – Calvin Sanders (Hunter Skornia assist)
14:42 Catholic goal – Calvin Sanders (Trey Garoutte assist)
Second half scoring
54:16 Catholic goal – Calvin Sanders (Hunter Skornia assist)
56:05 Catholic goal – Calvin Sanders (Direct Free Kick)
JV Final: Catholic – 1, Monett – 0