By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Power rankings are determined by dominance by Class. Recent success and strength of schedule are also factors.
1. Monett (9-2 overall, Class 2) – Reload, never rebuild. The Cubs are doing it again, with a new-look lineup but their trademark up-tempo and exciting brand of play. Monett’s big three of Jony Perez (14 goals, 12 assists), Alejandro Garcia (12 goals, 10 assists) and Roberto Perez (eight goals, eight assists) have quickly made their mark together after going through injuries last season. The Cubs are trying to continue an amazing streak by winning their ninth consecutive district title, the longest such feat of any area program. While longtime foe Catholic is now in Class 3, Monett’s district remains tough with newcomer Greenwood joining Cassville, Aurora and Logan-Rogersville in Class 2 District 4. A new wrinkle to Class 2 this year: There are only eight districts, meaning no sectional round. Monett could need just three postseason wins (instead of the usual four) to advance to the state final four for the third time in five years.
2. New Covenant Academy (7-3 overall, Class 1) – With Greenwood bumping up to Class 2, the Warriors are in a great position in Class 1. NCA has a very favorable road to the final four, although they’ll likely need to beat Laquey for a second time this season come districts. Fatima, currently .500-ish, likely looms in the Class 1 quarterfinals. NCA’s been led by a three-headed attack in Seth Smothers (eight goals, six assists), Spencer Chevalier (team-high 10 goals, two assists) and Dake Winslow (seven goals, six assists). Josiah Barstead, Jack McRoberts and Levi Nichols have also pitched in with a combined 10 goals and seven assists. The Warriors are technically sound and have developed some scoring balance. They’ll be a tough out in the postseason.
3. Neosho (8-1 overall, Class 3) – It’s shaping up as a special season for the Wildcats. Neosho took another step toward an outright conference title with a 2-0 home win Tuesday night over previously undefeated Carthage. Through nine matches, Neosho has a superb 36:5 goal differential. The lone blemish came 2-0 against Ozark in a neutral-site match in early September – a team Neosho beat three days earlier. Alberto Robledo leads Neosho in goals and Juan Perez leads in assists. Goalkeeper Kayden Wood has posted five shutouts.
4. Glendale (5-2 overall, Class 3) – The Falcons have had several postponements and cancellations, but when they’ve played, the results have been encouraging. Glendale’s defense is one of the stingiest in the area thus far. All five of Glendale’s wins have been shutouts. Glendale is also a bounce or two away from being 7-0; the Falcons lost 2-1 to Ozark in double overtime in the season opener and 3-2 (PKs) to Carthage in a neutral-site game. Glendale’s district will be much tougher than recent years, with Catholic moving up from Class 2 and Branson moving down from Class 4.
5. Catholic (Class 3, 6-1 overall) – Business as usual on the east side. The Irish play just about every good team in the area throughout the season, and emerge with about 20 wins and a postseason appearance. Catholic’s junior trio of Keanu Baggio (eight goals, three assists), Ashton Vinton (eight goals) and Carson Morgan (three goals) have led the way. We’re also seeing glimpses of a very bright future. Several freshmen, such as Kydon Huttenlocher (two goals, three assists), Rian Mulherin (three goals) and Erick Fuentes (two goals) are already making key contributions at the varsity level. Catholic’s on track for another strong season, although the postseason is no guarantee this year after the Irish got bumped up to a suddenly stacked Class 3 District 10 field along with Glendale, Branson and West Plains. The Irish have a mid-season test later this week at the Kickapoo Shootout, where they’re scheduled to play Kickapoo, Glendale and Nixa.
6. Carthage (12-1 overall, Class 4) – Carthage has come a long way since an uncertain offseason. The Tigers had a lot of question marks heading into 2020, but they’ve emerged as one of the top Class 4 teams in the area. Carthage started with 12 straight wins before falling 2-0 at Neosho on Tuesday. Adrian Garrido (10 goals), Marco Valdez (eight), Elmerson Contreras (seven) and Jesus Alvarado (five) have provided the majority of Carthage’s goal scoring. Alvarado also leads Carthage in assists (seven), along with Welle Welle (four) and Garrido (three). Before the loss to Neosho, Carthage had scored at least two goals in every match.
7. Ozark (Class 4, 10-4 overall) – The Tigers haven’t taken a step back after graduating a stellar senior class. Balance has been key. Dillon Holesapple – one of the few varsity holdovers from the 2019 squad – leads the way with 11 goals. But 10 other Tigers have also scored, including Jose Ortega (six goals) and Renato Granja (three goals). The Tigers can generate offense from multiple spots; 11 different players have registered assists, led by Ortega and Ethan Peeples with four apiece. Ozark went through a bumpy stretch in early September, but the Tigers appear to be regaining their form. The schedule kicks up next week with a conference match against Branson followed by a weekend tournament (Oct. 8-10) in Columbia.
8. Logan-Rogersville (9-4 overall, Class 2) – The Wildcats have opened up their attack a bit and become one of the area’s better offensive squads. Logan-Rogersville is averaging about 3.6 goals per match entering this week, led by Sage Ballard’s 15 goals along with seven assists. He’s had ample support with the likes of Jon Fetters (eight goals, five assists), Rylen Ballard (six goals, seven assists) and freshman Stewart McDonald (six goals, five assists). Logan-Rogersville isn’t far off from having double-digit wins already; three of the Wildcats’ four losses have come by only one goal. Log-Rog faces a tough district assignment with Greenwood joining the new Class 2 District 4 group along with perennial final four contender Monett. Having the 1-seed is vital for a district like that. Log-Rog can take a big step toward earning it when it hosts Monett on Oct. 6. The Wildcats had a pair of closes losses (4-3 and 2-0) to the Cubs last season.
9. Greenwood (6-2 overall, Class 2) – The Blue Jays aren’t the big fish in a small pond anymore. Greenwood joins Logan-Rogersville, Monett, Cassville and Aurora the Class 2 District 4 field. Outside of losses to Class 3 schools West Plans and Branson, the Blue Jays have been solid defensively. Greenwood’s yielded only three goals in its other six matches. Greenwood has key district matches with Cassville (Oct. 13), Aurora (Oct. 20) and Logan-Rogesrville (Oct. 27) ahead, along with a road match at Class 1 New Covenant Academy on Oct. 15.
10. Willard (10-2 overall, Class 3) – It came down to Willard or Branson for this last spot. The Tigers get the nod for now thanks to a wild 5-4 overtime win at home over Branson on Tuesday. Willard had a couple of rough losses to Lebanon and Carthage in mid-September, but the Tigers have bounced back well in the past two weeks. Willard, which returned the majority of its lineup from last season’s district title-winning squad, has a busy stretch ahead with the Willard Fall Classic this weekend then games against Monett (away), Neosho (away) and Bolivar (home) next week.
Knocking on the door: Laquey (5-5 overall, Class 1), Bolivar (6-4 overall, Class 3) Branson (8-7 overall, Class 3), Kickapoo (4-2 overall, Class 4), Nixa (4-4 overall, Class 4).