By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
It took a month, but the Nixa Eagles finally showed what they can do when healthy.
And the performance was stellar.
Nixa exploded for three first-half goals on its way to a convincing 5-2 victory over Christian County and Central Ozark Conference rival Ozark.
The Eagles (7-4 overall, 5-1 COC) have dealt with injuries since the start of the season.
“It’s our first game that we have everybody (healthy),” Nixa coach Evan Palmer said. “We’ve been losing somebody here or there. We lost a few kids early then we got a few back. Finally, this is our first game having everybody. It’s nice to see our full squad out there.”
Ethan Pellegren scored in the seventh minute and Hunter Daniels followed with goals in the 24th and 31st minutes to put the Eagles ahead 3-0.
“After I scored that first one, you could feel (Ozark’s) morale go down and ours boost up. It was crazy,” Pellegren said. “We were very hyped. After Hunter scored that second goal, we just took it from there.”
Entering Tuesday night’s match, Ozark (10-2 overall, 4-1) had only conceded six goals all season.
On the field together for the first time this year, Nixa dissected Ozark’s backline with its attacking trio of Pellegren, Daniels and Andreas Luiga.
“It’s great playing with such high-class players,” Pellegren said. “It’s fun playing and practicing with them. We’re best friends at school, too. We have great chemistry.”
Daniels displayed his possession and technical skills in the 31st minute when he outworked a defender for the ball, then eluded a save attempt by the Ozark goalkeeper. Daniels regathered himself and finished the scoring opportunity to make it 3-0 Nixa.
“He’s one of the strongest kids on the ball that I’ve seen,” Palmer said. “You just cannot dis-possess him and he’ll usually have some little, faint shoulder drop and then he’s gone. When he starts to pass and move, too, that makes him that much more dangerous.”
Ozark had its fair share of scoring opportunities. Tigers’ sophomore Troy Davidson won a header off a corner kick in the ninth minute, but the attempt hit the post.
Eagles sophomore Nick Reid came up with the save on an Ozark one-timer in the 15th minute. Reid also prevented a potential goal from Lawson Spence in the 49th minute.
“We finished our chances and (Ozark) didn’t,” Palmer said. “They had a lot of chances that I know they’ve normally been finishing. We had good defensive pressure on them. They didn’t get a lot of clean looks, but they were a little off tonight. We can’t count on that again. We need to clean things up in the back or else (Ozark) will come through.”
Nathan Hirsch hammered home a free kick from about 30 yards out in the 47th minute to make it 4-0 Nixa. Ozark got second-half goals from Eli Lairmore and Jonah Neidig.
Ozark hosts Webb City this Thursday, then competes in the Rolla Tournament Friday and Saturday. Nixa returns to action this weekend at the Kickapoo Shootout.
Nixa 5, Ozark 2
Ozark 0 2 — 2
Nixa 3 2 — 5
Nixa (7’) – Ethan Pellegren
Nixa (24’) – Hunter Daniels
Nixa (31’) – Daniels
Nixa (47’) – Nathan Hirsch
Ozark (58’) – Eli Lairmore
Nixa (62’) – Carson Beets
Ozark (70’) – Jonah Neidig