By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
Alex Spence is the “trilogy”, a co-captain and now has a performance he and his Glendale classmates will never forget.
Spence had two goals, including the game-winner in the 59th minute, as Glendale defeated Kickapoo 2-1 on Tuesday night in the annual Southside Showdown rivalry game.
It was big-time redemption for Spence and the Falcons, who had a pair of overtime losses to the Chiefs last season. The second one saw the Falcons lose a three-goal lead and fall 5-4 in overtime.
“It felt amazing finally beating Kickapoo,” Spence said. “Last year, we blew a 4-1 lead in the second (game). Our whole team really used it as motivation.”
After Tuesday’s game, Glendale’s student section swarmed the field to celebrate with players. Spence ended up atop the mob, waving the Glendale flag and hoisting the Southside Showdown trophy in the air.
“We came into this game knowing we were going to win and bounce back,” Spence said.
Normally a center mid, Spence isn’t shy about moving up and flashing his scoring ability. He showed why on his second goal.
Spence recorded his brace off a picture-perfect lob from Andrei Balanean near mid-field.
Spence sprinted under the ball and – without it hitting the ground – converted the header.
“The ball just came over the top of the defense, the keeper was out and I flicked it over him,” Spence said. “Next thing I knew, our crowd was going crazy.”
Said Glendale coach Jeff Rogers: “Probably one of the prettiest goals I’ve seen in a while.”
Spence is the latest – and last – in his family to come through Glendale’s program. Older brothers Bobby (2016) and Thomas (2018) were stars on recent Glendale teams.
“He’s the trilogy – the final Spence that I get to coach. Alex is a good combination of the other two,” Rogers said. “I love watching him play because he’s all over the field and he wants to score and help his team win. He showed that tonight.”
After a lackluster first half, Kickapoo tied the match 1-1 in the 51st minute on Landon Keisker’s penalty kick. Corbin Clay drew a foul in the box to set up the PK.
“We needed a better sense of urgency in the second half,” said Chiefs coach Phil Hodge. “I don’t know if complacency is the right word, but we got to where we were sitting in a little bit and when we’d play a ball out, we wouldn’t come up as a unit. We’d just sit and watch the ball 60 yards down the field. We needed to be better as a unit.
“Second half, I thought we did a great job with that.”
Spence gave the Falcons a 1-0 lead just before halftime. In the 37th minute, he got the tap-in rebound off Haiden Casper’s deflected shot.
After Spence’s second goal made it 2-1, Glendale’s defense made the lead stand over the final 20 minutes.
Senior defender Charlie Raridon had a key clearance during an open-net sequence in the 74th minute.
Later, senior Cayden Meyer, the reigning goalkeeper of the year in Class 3, made a leaping deflection on a corner kick.
It was the type of crunch-time response Rogers has been seeking from his veteran team. The Falcons return most of their lineup from last season’s final four team.
“For us, it’s a maturity thing,” Rogers said. “We’ve really been emphasizing that with this group. If you’re up 1-0, how do you finish off the game? Or, if it gets tied, how do you finish?
“That’s what we’re looking for and we had a good answer tonight.”
Meyer also made a similar play on a header in the first half to deny a Kickapoo goal.
“We saw that type of play from (Meyer) in St. Louis this past weekend,” Rogers said. “He kept us in the game against (Saint Louis University High), even though we lost. He’s just a big-time goalkeeper, very technical.”
Kickapoo and Glendale playing in early September was also noteworthy. Normally, the rivalry game happens in mid- to late October.
This year, the Ozark Conference revised its master schedule. Kickapoo vs. Glendale was slotted for early September.
“To play (Kickapoo) this early, it just didn’t feel right,” Rogers said. “But I think once all the fans got here, it was a classic Glendale-Kickapoo game.”
Kickapoo fell to 2-4 overall amid a challenging early season schedule. The Chiefs aren’t panicking as they stay focused on the bigger picture.
Kickapoo’s new, eight-team district features perennial postseason contenders Carthage, Nixa and Ozark – plus the likes of Central, Joplin, Republic and Waynesville.
“We just told the boys, ‘Keep grinding,’” Hodge said. “Our record may not be real impressive, but in 2017 we went to the final four with a record below .500. Anything’s possible. At the end of the day, with our district tournament having eight teams now, you’re going to have to go out and battle.
“We may not be getting the results we want in the regular season, but are we getting better from it? We are. Our morale was good after the game and this team believes. We just need to find the back of the net more often.”
Glendale (4-1 overall) plays at Rolla this Thursday then hosts a pool group for the Parkview Viking Showdown Sept. 10-11. The Falcons play Kansas City East on Friday then Cedar Hill Northwest on Saturday.
Kickapoo looks to bounce back this Thursday at Lebanon.