Like an older brother playing keep-away from a younger sibling, the Kickapoo Chiefs controlled possession and the game flow Thursday night against visiting Ozark.
Three players scored for Kickapoo as the Chiefs won 3-0. An experienced Chiefs squad showed Ozark the ropes of top-level varsity soccer.
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“I think the difference in the game was (Kickapoo’s) physicality,” said Ozark coach Tom Davidson, who added that the Tigers have 4 seniors and play 3 freshmen. “You look at them and they look like men. You look at us, and we can look like small boys compared to them.”
Sam Engler’s goal following a deflected shot put Kickapoo ahead 1-0 with 12 minutes to go in the first half. Hunter Durham and Aaron Strunk added second-half goals as Kickapoo’s ball-control style took its toll on Ozark (5-1, 2-0).
“The goals may not be there every time, it may not be 8-0, but when you’ve got 95 percent of the possession and you’ve got the other team chasing, they’re going to get worn down in the second half,” said Kickapoo coach Phil Hodge. “That’s been the trend we’ve set with our first three games; the second half we get a couple of more goals just by keeping it down on the other team’s end.”
The Chiefs (3-0) are led by a 13-player senior class this fall, so expectations are naturally high.Kickapoo was 19-7 last year but lost to Glendale in its district opener.
“It’s combined with defense, midfield and forwards to keep it all together,” Durham said. “We’re looking for a strong season.”
Ozark suffered a potentially big blow in the second half when all-conference forward Jakob Neidig left the game due to a hip injury. Davidson said Neidig could be out 1-2 weeks.
The Tigers play Friday at Republic then host Carthage on Tuesday. Kickapoo hosts Branson on Monday and Parkview on Tuesday.