By Dana Harding (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Ozark, Mo. — Following Ozark’s 6-1 victory over Branson in the Class 4 District 11 championship, head coach Tom Davidson had a simple message for his team.
“Let’s don’t be satisfied with just a district title; let’s make a run here,” Davidson said. “Don’t get me wrong — winning a district title is the greatest feeling in the world, but you’ve got to get into the mindset to keep going … let’s do some more damage now.”
Tiger midfielder Troy Davidson netted a hat trick in the win, while Jose Ortega collected a trio of assists.
The win marks the second-straight district title for the Tigers and a school-record 24 wins on the season.
While Coach Davidson is thrilled for his team’s accomplishments — as any coach would be — the anticipation can be challenging when significant milestones are within reach.
“For these kids to do what they’ve done — and to get the school record with wins — I just can’t be happier,” Davidson said. “I was nervous all day today, because I wanted it so badly for them … they’ve done everything right.”
Ozark set the tone early with constant pressure up top from the senior trio of Davidson, TK Stine and Wade Korns.
Coach Davidson praised Korns’ aggressive play, in particular.
“Wade has definitely been a big part of what we do,” Davidson said. “He was just beating that guy down the right side over and over and, you know, I’m kind of the Vince Lombardi guy. Hey, it’s working … just keep going with it until they stop us.”
In the fifth minute of play, the Tigers found the back of the net for the game’s opening score.
Davidson gathered a ball from Carson Amstutz near the top of the 18-yard box and hammered a blast past Branson goalkeeper Pilot Ascone.
While its opportunities were few and far between in the first half, Branson didn’t wait long to answer.
Ten minutes after Ozark’s opening goal, Branson’s Carlton Epps gathered a pass from Oskar Lauriac and punched a shot past Tiger goalkeeper Mark Shtevnin.
Following the Pirates’ counterpunch, Coach Davidson hoped the equalizer would serve as a wake-up call for his team.
“It’s [Branson’s] first time down here in our end, and they score a goal,” Davidson said. “How are we going to react to that?”
Ozark’s response was a three-goal flurry in just over six minutes of play.
At the center of the goal-scoring spree was Troy Davidson, who ramped up the degree of difficulty with an overhead bicycle kick and picture-perfect header right in front of the goal for his hat trick completion.
When asked about the bicycle kick — a blind shot with his back to the goal — Davidson admitted he just wanted to take a chance and try to keep the ball in play.
“The ball was up in the air, and I thought, ‘Why not,’” Davidson said. “Why not try and shoot it and make something happen? I turned around, and the ball was in the back of the net, so that’s all I can really say.”
After assisting on Davidson’s goal, Stine scored one of his own on a crosser that found him directly in front of the net.
With a commanding 4-1 lead at the half, Coach Davidson’s hopes of wake up call certainly came to fruition.
“We reacted appropriately,” Davidson said of Branson’s equalizer. “That’s what you get from a bunch of seniors who have been there and done that. They stay cool and, in a lot of ways, it looked like it made them mad. It was kind of like, ‘Wait a minute, you weren’t supposed to score on us,’ and then the flurry happens.”
The second half proved to be more of the same — Ozark pressuring up top, and Branson struggling to find goal-scoring opportunities of its own.
Late in the half, the Tigers added a pair of insurance goals from Stine and Dillon Holesapple to help secure the victory and a berth in next week’s sectional round.
For Stine, the title match was a simply a reflection on what can happen when the Tigers all work together as a team.
“We came in as a team, wanting to just be aggressive with the ball,” Stine said. “Work as a team and something good will happen. That’s what we did in the first half. We got a lot of opportunities, so now we’re heading up.”
For Coach Davidson, the non-stop pressure has been a staple of Ozark’s success this season.
“That’s what we’ve been doing all year,” Davidson said. “That’s us. That’s what we do. We’ve got to get out there, we’ve got to pressure and we’ve got to turn them over, and good things happen from the turnovers. We’ve got the athletes to do it, and it’s just fun to coach them.”
Up next for Ozark (24-2) is a sectional round matchup at home on Tuesday, Nov. 12, against Lee’s Summit West (17-5).
Class 4 District 11 Championship: Ozark – 6, Branson – 1
First half scoring
4:35 Ozark goal – Troy Davidson (Carson Amstutz assist)
14:07 Branson goal – Carlton Epps (Oskar Lauriac assist)
17:58 Ozark goal – Davidson (Wade Korns assist)
22:02 Ozark goal – Davidson (T.K. Stine assist)
24:05 Ozark goal – Stine (Jose Ortega assist)
Second half scoring
61:38 Ozark goal – Stine (Ortega assist)
77:14 Ozark goal – Dillon Holesapple (Ortega assist)