By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Rivalry games usually bring out the best in both teams.
Wednesday night’s Southside Showdown between Glendale and Kickapoo was no exception, injuries aside.
Kickapoo rallied from a 2-0 halftime deficit, but it was Glendale senior Ryan Long delivering the game-winner for a 3-2 Falcons victory.
“It’s always a battle going against Kickapoo,” said Glendale senior Ryan Feeney, who scored twice in the match. “We always want to beat them. It felt good. We all grinded through it and played for each other. We got the job done at the end.”
In the 51st minute, Long dribbled toward the middle and juked two defenders to gain space and an open window at the net. He uncorked a shot past a diving Jacob Holman, who made several great saves throughout the match for Kickapoo.
“I’ve been waiting for that. I talked to (Long) before the game and he has that in him,” said Glendale coach Jeff Rogers. “With a goalkeeper like Holman, you have to beat him. That’s just one of those shots you’re not going to save.”
It’s the second straight year Glendale’s won the Southside Showdown. After Wednesday’s game, the Falcons celebrated on the field with their student section, The Flock.
“Good high school atmosphere,” said Chiefs coach Phil Hodge. “Just a good soccer game. I’m proud of our guys. Result wasn’t what we wanted, but we played hard and competed.”
After trailing 2-0 at halftime, the Chiefs drew even just six minutes into the second half.
Grayson McClure scored in the 42nd minute off a feed from Aidan Bilbao to make it 2-1.
“At halftime, I told the kids, ‘You’ve been hearing this since you were eating rice crispy treats and orange wedges: The worst score in soccer is 2-0,’” Rogers said. “I knew Coach Hodge would have them ready to play that second half and they just came out and found those two quick goals.”
Just four minutes later, Chiefs senior Garrett Whorton drilled a free kick through from about 20 yards out.
“Aidan (Bilbao) typically stands over most of our free kicks and just from where the ball was sitting, we gave Garrett a chance and he buried it,” Hodge said. “It was beautiful.”
The Falcons jumped on Kickapoo early. Glendale won a Kickapoo goal kick and quickly went to work. Zane Wimmer sent a crosser to Feeney for a header in the ninth minute.
“We switched our strategy up a little to put more pressure on them early, and it worked,” Rogers said. “We created a lot of those scoring opportunities and were able to put two away.”
Feeney struck again in the 12th minute when he secured a loose ball behind the Kickapoo back line and converted the opportunity.
“The first goal, I had a very good ball played to me from Zane across the face and just decided to head it in,” Feeney said. “On the second one, I saw that opportunity and took (the ball) down and put it past the goalkeeper and into the bottom of the corner.”
Both teams entered the match dealing with major injuries. Kickapoo, with five regular varsity players out, had three first-time starters.
“We’ve had a ton of injuries and dipped into our JV for players,” Hodge said. “We brought eight new guys up and competed.”
As for Glendale, Falcons senior Mitch Stephens suffered an injury in last weekend’s Kickapoo Shootout and was on crutches Wednesday night. The 2017 all-state defender, one of the area’s most dynamic players, led the Falcons in goals last season.
“In my opinion, he’s one of the best players in the state,” Rogers said. “We’re going to have to figure things out without him being on the field. He’s a leader for us in so many aspects.”
Glendale (10-4 overall) plays in the Rock Bridge Classic over the next three days. The Falcons play Rock Bridge on Thursday, Truman on Friday and Ft. Zumwalt South on Saturday.
The Falcons can secure an outright Ozark Conference title with wins against Lebanon, Parkview and Hillcrest later this month.
Kickapoo (7-6 overall) travels to St. Louis this weekend for matches against Chaminade (Oct. 5) and Marquette (Oct. 6).