A season of firsts continued for Fair Grove soccer on Saturday, as the Eagles exploded for four second-half goals to beat Laquey 5-2 and advance to the program’s first final four.
Coming into the year, being in the state quarterfinals didn’t seem possible until the Eagles found out a couple weeks into practice that they would be moving down from Class 2 to Class 1.
“We knew this was a chance for us when we found out (about moving to Class 1). We knew that maybe we could do it, but we had to grow a lot,” head coach Joesph Florez said. “We had a lot of inexperience on our team. We start a couple of freshmen and a couple other guys who had never played the sport until this year. They are just hard workers. Kids at Fair Grove just work hard.”
While inexperience has dotted the roster, it was the experienced that led Fair Grove on Saturday.
Fair Grove knew the first half would be a battle when the Eagles won the toss and elected to go against the gusting wind.
“We won the toss and went against the wind on purpose. We knew it would make it tough and that was alright with us. We battled in the first half. We had a game plan. We knew our stuff was not going to go long in the first half,” Florez said.
Fair Grove did break through for one goal against the wind with senior Kyle Stacey scoring a late second half goal to make it 1-0. Laquey answered just a couple minutes later with an equalizer from Cayden Powers to send the game into the half tied at 1-1.
That score left Fair Grove feeling confident with the wind as an ally in the second half.
“I knew if we could do that against the wind (blowing) like that, and push that hard, I knew we could do something special the second half when the wind was on our side,” senior Maicol Newkirk said.
“Second half (we wanted to) just send it. We have all-state level finishers up top with Kyle Stacey and Maicol Newkirk,” Florez said.
Fair Grove broke through quickly in the second half with a Kyle Stacey goal just 90 seconds into the game to make it 2-1.
This was the third meeting between the two teams, and things began to get heated on the field. Shortly after Stacey’s goal, Powers was injured on a collision with Newkirk, which caused Laquey’s center back to miss the rest of the second half.
Newkirk scored a goal soon after the collision with 33 minutes left and made it 3-1. Junior Griffin Merillat made it 4-1 on a goal off a high, bouncing ball.
Skyler Eidem would bring Laquey closer with a goal with just under 20 minutes to go, but Newkirk would put the game away 10 minutes later with his second goal of the game to make it 5-2.
Newkirk and Stacey finished with four of the five goals, which has become a familiar sight for Florez over the last four years.
“I don’t want to say it makes coaching easy but it makes it a little bit easier when you have guys that you know will come through if you stay patient and keep working and send the balls to them. If they keep their work rate up, it will happen,” Florez said.
Newkirk and Stacey’s dynamic partnership helps to both spread opposing defenses thin and take pressure off of each other.
“It is great when you can play against somebody like (Laquey) and know that somebody else is out there (on your team) that can do what you do,” Newkirk said. “It makes me happy having a player like that (with me) and a team like this.”
This final four berth is a culmination of four years of work for several of Fair Grove’s players.
“It is unreal. We have been playing four years, me, my brother (Kamron Stacey) and Maicol, and always lost in the district championship. It was just our destiny to win a district championship and now we are on our way to state,” Stacey said.
Now the Eagles will prepare to face the Saxony Lutheran/Principia winner in the Class 1 Final Four next Friday, Nov. 9 at 4 p.m. in Fenton, Mo.
“We have more practices and we are going to work hard this week trying to prepare for state. Who knows what is going to happen? Four good teams are going to be there. We have as good of a chance as anybody else. We just have to outwork them. We just have to do what we have done all year. We aren’t going to change anything,” Florez said.
For Laquey, the season ends at 21-5. Laquey will say good-bye to coach Tyler Sevon’s first four-year class that helped put the program in the right direction.
“This senior class really just restructured our program after I came in. This is my first class to take all the way through. They bought into what I was selling and just played their butts off. I am proud of them. They played with class,” Sevon said.
Star forward Brandon MacDonald finished his season with 61 goals.