By Kai Raymer (For OzarksSportsZone.com)
What’s it like trying to contain Keanu Baguio on the soccer field?
Picture a certain farm animal running wild.
“Let’s just say he’s very quick,” said Springfield Catholic coach Mike Hines. “Our assistant coach (David Ashby) says (Baguio) is like a slippery, little pig. You can’t catch him.”
When all eyes are on Baguio, he doesn’t mind becoming a facilitator – like in Tuesday afternoon’s Big 8 Conference showdown at Logan-Rogersville.
Late in the first half, Baguio set up teammate Ashton Vinton for the decisive goal of the match as Catholic went on to claim a 3-0 victory.
The outcome gives Catholic an early edge toward an outright conference title after they shared it with Logan-Rogersville last season.
In the 39th minute of Tuesday’s match, Baguio – drawing attention as usual – slipped a through ball past Logan-Rogersville’s defense and to the feet of Vinton.
“We really needed that,” Baguio said. “If we didn’t get that goal then, it would’ve kept (Logan-Rogersville) a lot more motivated for the second half. So it was nice to get that goal then.
“I’m super glad I can do it,” Baguio said of his passing ability. “I’m glad to help the team out any way I can and help my teammates score goals.”
Hines said that Baguio’s elusiveness and playmaking fuel Catholic’s offensive system – along with Vinton. They lead Catholic in goals scored thus far.
The Irish aren’t shy about playing their senior tandem at different positions, either.
“When (Baguio) gets low, turns and accelerates, the other team has to handle him with numbers,” Hines said. “We’ll move him around between the No. 9 (forward), the No. 10, (attacking mid) and the No. 11, which is the left outside wing position.
“He really likes the wing, but he draws so much attention when he’s in the middle that the wings become even more open. We’ll switch him around and the other teams will have to adjust to that.”
Catholic (5-2 overall, 2-0 Big 8 Conference) quickly silenced any hopes of a Logan-Rogersville second-half comeback.
In the 42nd minute, Logan-Rogersville was called for a handball violation inside the penalty area. Baguio converted the ensuing penalty kick to give Catholic a 2-0 lead.
In the 53rd minute, Vinton helped Catholic seal the victory when he capitalized on a misplayed ball as Logan-Rogersville was attempting to clear.
“Tough game,” said Logan-Rogersville coach Brett Wubbena. “We had a couple of missed opportunities. We have to fix our penalty kick issues, because we’ve given up four. I think that’s more than we’ve given up the last two years. I don’t if they’re calling things different or we’re just playing different.”
Catholic had a big edge in possession and total shots – limiting the scoring chances for Logan-Rogersville star Sage Ballard in the process.
“We wanted to focus on our game and play a lot of possession tonight, try to dominate the game in that sense,” Baguio said. “Then, hopefully, the opportunities would come from there.”
Said Wubbena: “We know we’re good at the counter, but today it was almost a little ridiculous because we left (Sage) high and we didn’t really go support anything. I thought he did a fine job of making something out of nothing, but when you have no support and you’re playing one against four, it’s tough.”
Catholic’s methodical style has paid off in most matches this season.
The Irish have tallied 18 goals. Hines estimated that about “80 or 85 percent” of those have occurred after halftime.
“After a while, when you have that possession and you make the other team chase you, they get tired,” Hines said. “Then, those gaps start to get bigger in the second half.”
On the defensive end, Catholic has allowed just four goals, thanks in part to the new centerback tandem of Carson Morgan and Kaden Kellermann. Hines said Kellermann has grown six inches since last season.
That’s allowed the Irish to move Vinton to his best position: defensive mid.
“It allows us that positive domino effect,” Hines said.
After winning 13 games and finishing as district runner-up last season, the Irish returned the majority of their lineup for 2021.
“Chemistry’s already up from last year. We just have to keep working at it,” Baguio said. “We’re already a step ahead of a lot of other teams in that sense.”
Logan-Rogersville (7-1 overall) will look to bounce back Thursday at home against Webb City. Tuesday was just the second non-tournament match that Logan-Rogersville has played this season.
The Wildcats took first place at tournaments held by Lebanon and New Covenant Academy.
The Irish return to action Sept. 17-18 when they host the Springfield Catholic Soccer Showcase.