De Soto builds momentum with pair of victories
Sometimes it's luck. Sometimes it's skill.
Either can lead a team to a win, but the De Soto soccer team has cashed in big through the last week thanks to a little of both.
The Cats survived a broadside of soccer balls Tuesday to escape with a 1-0 win at Bonner Springs. De Soto preceded that key victory with its first true blowout of the year, a 6-1 victory Thursday at home against Spring Hill.
"To win (at Bonner) is huge," De Soto coach Darren Erpelding said. "That will help us Thursday (against Maranatha) and the rest of the year. That's a very good team.
"They might have outplayed us a little and controlled it more, but we've lost a lot of games like that, too."
The most welcome aspect for the Cats has been better play on offense, especially in Thursday's explosion against Spring Hill.
De Soto, 6-4, has scored more than two goals only twice this season, and has been shut out in three of its four losses. The game against the Broncos was the second within a week, but in that short time, an entirely different Wildcat team emerged.
De Soto won the first game 1-0, but played much more at ease in the second. T.J. Blankenship moved up front when De Soto's leading scorer from a year ago, Zach England, moved back to play defense.
Both are seniors and both Thursday and Tuesday offered more evidence that the move is finally paying off.
Blankenship has scored in four consecutive games. He put two in Thursday against Spring Hill and scored De Soto's only goal against Bonner Springs.
"We just kept working at it and working at it," Erpelding said of the team's offensive resurgence. "We've been doing drills to work on our touch and our finish.
"T.J.'s really stepped up and come on. Having that and if we can get a few more of these guys on track will make us really tough."
It was more than just Blankenship that made both the Cats' goal and the win possible at Bonner Springs.
De Soto looked outgunned in the first half as the Braves wore on the defense with a relentless assault. The Cats broke free for several runs at the goal, but it was more about Bonner's near misses than De Soto's counterattacks.
The closest call came in the 25th minute. A pair of Braves met two Wildcat defenders about 15 yards from the goal. Both Cats charged at the ball and with one swift pass, the second Bonner Springs attacker had only the goalie to beat.
He managed to do that as well, whisking the ball just left of De Soto junior goalkeeper Tyler Phongsavath's left hand. It rolled straight and hard, but deflected off the far post and ricocheted back toward the middle of the goal, miraculously staying just inches outside the painted white line until Phongsavath could leap backward and snatch it.
"It hit the corner and I turned right back around and got it," Phongsavath said. "Coach told us a few words during halftime and it helped. It was a good win. It was fun."
De Soto managed to stunt the Braves offense in the second half, and finally figured out ways to generate its own opportunities. The game-winning chance came as senior forward Scott McKechnie chased down a ball in the Bonner corner. He couldn't control it, but the ball went over the end line off the defender's foot, giving the Cats their only corner kick of the game.
Brett Hevel left a looping ball right in front of the net and with the goalkeeper blocked by Cat senior Paul Oswald, Blankenship headed in the goal, his fifth in the last four games.
"It was curving in and I just hit it off the side of my forehead," Blankenship. "This was a giant win. We had to play high paced and aggressive. This was huge going into Maranatha."
De Soto will look to keep its momentum alive at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at home against Maranatha.
"I feel really good," Erpelding said. "Getting (Tuesday's) win against a good team on their field, then going into Maranatha is good.
"I'm excited. The boys are excited"