Cats stumble against Christian
Things can't go sour much quicker than they did for the De Soto soccer team.
After weathering the storm that was the defending Class 4A-1A state champions, Kansas City Christian, De Soto looked to be in good shape, down only 1-0 with less than five minutes before halftime.
That was a big five minutes though. Christian poured in three more goals before the break mercifully arrived, and the Panthers had delivered the coup de grace to the Wildcats upset bid before the Cats, 4-2, even knew what hit them.
"I was thinking 'We're going to get through this,'" De Soto coach Darren Erpelding said of the first half. "We had some opportunities, but we flat out just fell apart. Why that is, I don't know."
The frustrating thing, Erpelding said -- as powerful and as well as Christian played, it was Wildcat miscues that helped seal the deal in the first half.
Christian got all the scoring it would need 10 minutes in. It really put De Soto in a bad spot with just a few minutes remaining in the half, however.
De Soto's leading scorer, Zach England, went down with an ankle injury, and Christian pounced. The Panthers put away a ball that rolled slowly most of the way across the box for the first goal.
The point-blank blast bounced high, right in front of the goal and ricocheted off the crossbar, back down into the ground. Tyler Phongsavath nearly caught the ball without surrendering the score, but he missed and a Panther was there for an easy tap and a 2-0 lead.
Only moments later, Christian struck once more, again turning a shot the Cats could have cleared into a goal. A ball across the front of the goal was tapped in accidentally by De Soto.
The final score of the period was equally mind boggling. Christian played a long ball to a forward, but the De Soto defense sniffed the move out and sweeper Brady Seaman ran the attacker down and appeared to have control of the ball as both players collapsed into a heap near the corner of the goal. The ball somehow still squirted free, past a stunned Phongsavath, and into the net.
"Their first four goals were miscues on our part," Erpelding said. "I didn't think they did all that much in the first half to score. They had nine shots, but I only remember one being really good, but we had our mistakes and that's where the goals came from."
Christian tallied three more scores in the second half, one early, one 13 minutes in and one 20 minutes in, but Erpelding said by that point, the game was over -- his team's spirit was crushed.
"We gave up the first goal, then we started playing a lot better," Erpelding said. "Then Zach goes down, we gave up a few goals and you could just see the team deflate. They just died. Boom, boom, boom and we're down 4-0."
Despite it all, it wasn't the worst of weeks for the Cats, Erpelding said.
De Soto notched a 3-1 win at Paola Thursday, using three second-half goals to come from behind.
England scored twice -- he currently leads the team with six goals -- and Seaman scored once.
Winning that game was a positive, Erpelding said, and somehow, there were positives to be taken from the Christian mess, as well.
The Cats took the best the defending champs had to offer for most of the first half and only fell apart once their top scorer was out of the game. While Christian dominated the tempo and maintained a fairly steady pressure throughout the first half, De Soto limited any real shots on goal until the final few minutes and had a few runs of its own.
Christian ended up with a 15-4 advantage on shots -- De Soto squeezing off only two attempts per half -- but Erpelding said in all that he saw some of his players execute the game plan.
"There's a lot of positives and one of them is that we beat ourselves, especially in the first half," Erpelding said. "I don't think (our players) realized how fast the game is when you play these guys. Christian doesn't have very many weak links. They've a very good team, and now our guys know that."
The Cats now have some time to see if they can build upon those lessons on a more consistent basis. England returned soon after being carried off the field, but the Cats have plenty of time to ensure he and everyone else can play healthy heading into the heart of the schedule.
De Soto doesn't play again until 6 p.m. Monday when it hosts Baldwin.