by John Unrein
Grain Valley Eagles junior defenseman Gage Levell took slow and deliberate strides towards the soccer ball during the last attempt of the penalty kick shootout. Levell’s hips centered with his final step and the placement of his right foot on the ball sent it careening with a low trajectory to the left bottom corner of the goal.
The result was an Eagles win over a conference rival in the Fort Osage Indians by a score of 6-4 on October 27th. Those in attendance on the chilly night for Grain Valley were on their feet and loud with celebration following the dramatic win.
Levell was preceded by junior midfielder Micah Siems, sophomore midfielder Owen White, sophomore midfielder Austin Schmitt, and senior forward Alex Engram in making all five penalty shots for the Eagles that secured the victory. The penalty shootout was a necessity as neither team could untie the score during the two ten minute overtime periods.
“I try to take longer on my approach to see what the goalie’s positioning is on penalty kicks. That allows me to see what side the goalie favors, and I try to bury it the opposite way. I work on penalty kicks every day after practice for this occasion in trying to be perfect,” Levell said.
“Tonight, was a dog fight with Fort Osage. They played well, but we definitely wanted it more. Our determination and will pushed me to control the ball as much as I could.”
Levell’s touch passing and timely dribbling through opponents allowed Grain Valley to keep close to equal control of the ball during the first half and limit what could have resulted in more shots on goal by Fort Osage. Grain Valley would produce 15 shots on goal during the contest to 16 by Fort Osage. The Indians lone goal would occur 29 minutes into the first half.
Sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Lampe was another difference maker for the Eagles. Lampe started the game in goal prior to being relieved by sophomore Isaac Laws. Lampe would return to relieve Laws due to him being kicked on a save attempt in the second overtime period. The penalty would result in a red card and disqualification from the contest for the Fort Osage player.
Lampe was able to save the first penalty shot attempt by Fort Osage during the shootout. Lampe went to his right upon contact with the kick and was able to get both hands on the ball and punch it away from the goal. It was Lampe’s second big save of the night with the other coming two minutes into the second half thwarting an Indians attempt on goal. Other denials on goal by Lampe would come with critical saves at the end of regulation and as time expired in the second overtime.
“Coach (Lewis) told me the guy I made the save on always goes to his left, which would be my right with the shot. I said okay, I’ll trust him and sure he enough Coach (Lewis) was correct, and I made the save,” Lampe said.
“The first half I made another save but felt like I could’ve done better. I didn’t get to the ground fast enough to stop the ball on the goal they (Fort Osage) scored (prior to overtime). I also should have talked more in giving instructions to my teammates. It does feel great to get this win though.”
Grain Valley’s other goal came during regulation on a free kick by Schmitt to forward Kade Compton who’s nifty boot of the ball found net twenty minutes into the second half. Compton’s play was part of a rotation of substitution used by Lewis to keep as many fresh players on the field as possible throughout the game. A strategy that paid dividends for Grain Valley as the game progressed.
Lewis reflected on the culminating efforts of his team’s victory after the game.
“We’ve been fortunate enough to get and review film on some of our opponents. Right footed kickers typically have a tough time opening their hips and that causes them to typically shoot to the left side of the goal. I told (Ryan) Lampe that the first guy is likely going to his left. That was fortunate and Lampe made my advice look better than it was,” Lewis said.
“Gage (Levell) is a penalty kick expert. He’s the best on this team at it and that’s why he kicks last in the lineup during a shootout. He does practice it regularly and that’s why we expect him to deliver.”
Lewis continued, “Kade Compton was originally rostered as a JV (junior varsity) player and he’s been super impressive this season, which has earned him some varsity time in recent games. His goal tonight leveled the field for us and got us into overtime.”
“Our possession of the ball also improved as the game progressed tonight. I have confidence in our mid three (midfielders). Their play created more opportunities for us up top during the second half and they kept the ball a little longer. It allowed us to get the ball to our guys in their width and whip balls towards our opponent. Luckily, we finished.”
The win moves Grain Valley to a 6-11 record. The Eagles will next be in action when they host the Truman Patriots at 6:30 pm on October 29th prior to Grain Valley playing in the Class 3, District 8 Tournament starting on November 24th.