By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In a tradition started last year, Catholic awards a game ball to its best player(s) following each match. Every player on the team signs the ball.
Catholic had a problem trying to continue that tradition Thursday night against rival Monett.
There weren’t enough game balls to go around, said Irish coach Mike Hines.
“I really felt like it was a team effort and team win,” he said. “Sometimes, you just have to get in and gut it out. I think that’s what we did tonight.”
Catholic got goals from sophomores Keanu Baguio (32’) and Ashton Vinton (61’) and withstood a late Cubs onslaught for a 2-1 home victory.
Dating back to 2015, Monett and Catholic have played eight times. The series is an even 4-4 in that span, with three of Monett’s wins coming in the Class 2 state tournament.
“It definitely feels different when you’re playing (Monett). It’s a different atmosphere,” said Catholic senior defender Garrett Webber. “They have their brigade of fans. It was cool seeing their fans and our fans tonight. They always bring a presence with them.”
Monett junior Eduardo Rodriguez tied the match in the 53rd minute. The Cubs nearly scored minutes earlier as well, but misfired a rebound opportunity on an open net.
The Cubs put up a desperation surge over the final 15 minutes. At one point, Monett took four consecutive corner kicks in a one-minute span with the Irish unable to clear.
“We had our chances, and so did (Catholic),” said Monett coach Cristobal Villa. “We didn’t put enough of ours in the back of the net. When you (play) a good team like Catholic, you have to put (scoring chances) away.”
Vinton blasted a direct free kick through from about 30 yards out in the 61st minute for the game-winner.
“We have to be more awake and aware,” Villa said of the goal. “That was a good shot and a good goal. We have to learn. Our defense is new in the back, but they’ve stepped up big time. You can hardly tell they’re new.”
Vinton, along with freshman Gage Vehr, are move-ins who have provided a big lift for the Irish (7-1 overall).
“Ashton’s a fine young player,” Hines said. “He’s going to grow up and do some great things. Both him and (freshman) Gage Vehr, who didn’t come out of the game, played great.”
Vehr set up Catholic’s first goal in the 32nd minute when he played a ball through to Baguio for a one-timer.
Despite the halftime lead, Hines said the Irish weren’t playing at their peak.
Catholic, he said, made 18 unforced passing errors in the first 19 minutes.
“Some of that’s our nerves. Some of that’s credit to Monett and their good effort,” Hines said.
Monett did slow down a red-hot Catholic attack. The Irish had scored at least three goals in all but one match coming into Thursday night.
Monett, missing three starters for the match, dropped to 8-6 overall. The Cubs return to action Monday at Willard.
“It’s always a good game, Catholic and Monett,” Villa said. “It’s the tradition from the past. Two good teams came to play tonight. They scored one more goal than us.”
Catholic begins a busy stretch next week. The Irish host Carl Junction on Monday, followed by matches against Glendale (Oct. 3), Nixa (Oct. 4) and Kickapoo (Oct. 5) in the Kickapoo Shootout.