by John Unrein
A ricochet of the soccer ball off the goal post across the net to the waiting foot of a Platte County Pirate player was the only shot on goal that Senior Bryant Madden couldn't stop. The Eagles goalkeeper would defend 16 shots on goal in route to a 1-Nil loss to the Platte County Pirates on Saturday, November 16th in state playoff action.
The winning goal came with just 22 seconds left in overtime. It marked the third time this season the Eagles had played the Pirates tough, losing to them by only one goal each time.
Madden tried to put the game and his season in perspective.
"Eagles soccer has meant everything to me. All four years growing up playing with these boys has been special. I view these guys like my brothers," Madden said.
"I did what I could today to help out my team by defending our goal. We put forth a great team effort and came up just short."
The Pirates were the dominant team in getting their feet and bodies on second chance soccer balls as well as getting turned on the ball towards the Eagles’ net. That momentum would abruptly stop and shift tides to the Eagles in the second half. Their hustle would allow them to be the foremost team coming up with second chance balls and getting the ball turned towards the Pirate net.
Grain Valley would reduce the shots on goal advantage to 14-21 in favor of the Pirates by the end of the game (the tally was 6-12 at halftime). A big reason for improvement in the advancement of the Eagles offense was due to Senior Defenseman Nate Booker.
Booker was dominant in getting in front of Pirate offensive surges and securing any ball that entered the Eagles defensive zone. Furthermore, Booker was continuously the first off the ground and to the soccer ball with his head on 50/50 chances.
Different Pirate players would try, but come up empty with same results that ventured into Booker's area. This eventually wore down the Pirates offense in the second half.
Booker was composed and grateful in his post game comments.
"Intensity. We knew we were going to be the underdogs out here today. I gave it my all. Especially, on the 50/50 balls as they provide momentum swings for your team when they get possessed. That's what it's all about in a quarterfinal game," Booker said.
"This program is all about character. I've seen Freshmen through Seniors grow up both on the field and off the field. Eagles Soccer is a great community and I'm proud to be a part of that."
Head Soccer Coach Tyler Nichol was proud of his team's effort and how far they've come over the last 12 months.
"We tried to keep their number 2 (Chase Peterson) in front of us and not allow him behind us. A lot of their shots came from distance. They were the most dangerous on set plays from throw-ins and corner kicks. Nate (Booker) was an animal today playing possessed.”
“He's so athletic at going up and getting his head or chest on contested balls. He grinds things out. We moved him from forward to defender around the Blue Springs game and it paid big dividends for us," Nichol said.
"Also, that was one of the best games Bryant (Madden) has ever played. He never played goalkeeper until last year, and yet he's been a natural. I don't know how he saw some of the balls he tipped or got his hands on today.”
“I don't know if I have the words to characterize our senior class. You're looking at a team that was under .500 last season. The reason why we only lost to three teams (Platte County, Smithville, and Blue Valley West) this year is all because of the senior class."
Senior Goalkeeper Bryant Madden defends a shot on goal.
Photo credit: John Overstreet
Senior Defender Nate Booker clears the ball from his zone with a header.
Photo credit: John Overstreet