By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
In the big picture, this is the best boys’ soccer team Ozark High School’s ever had and the top local team this year. The Tigers won a school-record 24 games and their second straight district title.
In the short term, this one stings because of what could’ve been.
Ozark’s season ended Wednesday night with a 2-1 loss to Lee’s Summit West in the Class 4 sectional round. The Tigers (24-3 overall) were derailed by missed scoring opportunities in both halves.
“We just missed our chances,” said Ozark coach Tom Davidson. “We had so many really good chances, especially in that second half.”
Davidson then added, while fighting back tears: “What I want to say more than anything is: These kids gave me everything they got. Every single night.”
Lee’s Summit West senior Gabe Ramos scored the decisive goal three minutes into the second half. Ramos’s initial shot was stopped by the Ozark defense, but the ball bounced back to him and he converted on a second try from about 20 yards out.
Ozark went down swinging, though.
The Tigers unleashed an array of shots, corner kicks and free kicks at the LSW net over the final 20 minutes.
One play – when Carson Amstutz worked a through ball to Wade Korns in the 68th minute – summed up a frustrating night for the Tigers.
After receiving the pass from Amstutz, Korns juked the LSW goalie to the side to gain space and take the shot, but a Titans defender denied the would-be score at the last second.
Ozark also had two other shots sail just above the crossbar in the final 10 minutes.
“Those (shots) were falling in during the (regular season), and they just weren’t going to fall tonight,” Davidson said.
Both teams capitalized on defensive miscues in the first half.
Ozark struck first in the 20th minute when senior TK Stine jumped on a misplayed ball along the LSW backline.
The Titans drew level five minutes later when Parker Jenkins scored, after Ozark had appeared to make the save.
LSW controlled possession for most of the match, but the Tigers nearly retook the lead late in the first half. Ozark found itself wide open in front of an empty net after a crosser, but a mistimed shot hit off the crossbar and the ensuing rebound was cleared.
“Everything you saw tonight (from LSW) – the possession, the defense – we knew what to expect from them,” Davidson said. “They’re a good, solid team. But I can’t help but think that our chances were the better of the chances tonight.”
It’s a tough end for an Ozark team that had final four aspirations.
“Just to know (our players) the way they are and to know the fight they have in them, everything about this team… I told them, ‘I wasn’t prepared for this (result) tonight at all,’” Davidson said. “I really wasn’t.”
The Tigers graduate a 14-player senior class that includes Davidson’s son, Troy.
“This group of seniors have been incredible,” Tom Davidson said. “I just wanted it so bad for them.”