Goals scarce as Cats drop key contest
Baldwin senior Zach Baughan worked his way to the front of the goal, threw his leg back and blasted the ball. It was a whistling shot, high and hard, and it flew just over De Soto goalie Tyler Phongsavath's outstretched hands and just below the gleaming white cross bar, planting into the back of the net before dropping to the ground with a thud.
It was a frustrating goal for the struggling De Soto Wildcats not only because it dashed their hopes -- the Cats had been trying to rally late in Tuesday's game, but the deadly goal made the score 3-1 -- but because it demonstrated exactly what the Cats couldn't do themselves.
De Soto controlled the ball through at least half of Monday's game, but it never managed to get off any shots like Baughan's, and it led to the Cats' demise.
"We went down 2-0 and there was no sense of urgency from any of the kids," Erpelding said. "We didn't attack goal as much as we should and we did not have enough composure in front of net. We took some bad shots and the good shots we took I thought we rushed."
De Soto did have one highlight. It wasn't a jaw-clenching blast, but senior TJ Blankenship scored his second goal of the season.
He took a long pass from Zach England and slide past his defender, depositing his team's only goal quickly and easily past the goalie and into the corner of the net.
It was smooth, but that it was the only good shot unleashed by the Cats goes further to tell of the team's struggles.
It also came too late in the game to offer the Cats a big morale bump. Blankenship scored 10 minutes into the second half, but De Soto already trailed 2-0.
The Cats handled Baldwin 3-1 at home earlier this season, but the Bulldogs bit back, and do so without one of their best players. Dustin Schiller, one of the most aggressive scorers in the region, played but was slowed throughout thanks to the flu.
Baldwin's Alex Silva scored the team's first goal and Schiller added the second, scoring via a header on a corner kick. He spent halftime on his knees, however, and didn't start the second half, lying on the sideline before rising to come in after several minutes.
De Soto, meanwhile, couldn't string together enough passes to turn controlling the ball into scoring goals.
Blankenship had an earlier chance, midway through the first half, taking the ball right in front of the goal. His shot was definitely high and hard, but looped far over the goal.
Scott McKechnie struggled to get off a shot that went wide and Brett Hevel was wide as the first half's final second ticked off the clock, and again early in the second.
Freshman Octavio Villa kept a pair of Bulldog defenders on his hip to get off a shot in the second half, but the harassment was too much to allow much aiming and the ball bounded right to the goalie.
De Soto's best two chances from Zach England, the team's top scorer from a year ago moved to play defense this season.
England knocked a header toward the goal on a corner kick late in the second half, but his hit came from too far out. By the time the ball reached the goal, it was moving slow enough to be an easy save.
He also threatened with a direct kick a few minutes earlier. The ball soared high over both the Wildcat attackers and the Baldwin defenders, falling perfectly past the crossbar. The Baldwin goalie leapt to clasp it with both hands, however, and even more impressively managed to swing his arms and the ball forward as he fell back into the net.
His entire body collapsed in the goal, but he arms and the ball dangled just over the one line the Cats couldn't cross.
"We have one player that has a scoring mentality and he's in the back," Erpelding said. " I have talked to the guys that to become a scorer you have to put your body through extreme conditions.
"A goal scorer should be tired and sore after a game. A scorer will do anything in his power to put the ball in the net and put his body through hell."
De Soto won once last week, 1-0 victory against Spring Hill, a first-year program. The Cats will have another chance at the Broncos at 6 p.m. Thursday at home.
De Soto also plays at 6 p.m. Tuesday in Bonner Springs.