Osage and Camdenton fall in district championship games

Osage comes up short in tough defensive battle with Springfield Catholic for district championship

One single goal made the difference in the Class 2 District 10 championship game between School of the Osage and Springfield Catholic Wednesday night. 

Unfortunately for the Indians, the visiting Fighting Irish did not have to score that goal themselves. A low and hard cross just outside the box with less than 23 minutes remaining deflected off the feet of sophomore Ethan Ford and into the net. The Indians had a few opportunities to score throughout the night, but could not find the elusive goal in a 1-0 defeat.

"It was an unlucky play. It is going to happen to anybody when you are playing inside the box and get low, hard, driving balls like that," Osage coach Jason Long said of the play. "He came right back down the field a couple of minutes later and almost had a header that was called offside. I'm not going to put any blame on Ethan because if it was not him it was going to be some other defender the ball is going to ping off of. No blame, it was just a good game." 

The Indians (13-11) entered the tournament as the second seed against a top-seeded Springfield Catholic team that was (16-3). It was a fight to the end as the Fighting Irish built up their attack with quick touches and passes and the Indians countered by seeking quick breakaways in the 4-4-2 formation. 

"They (Springfield Catholic) were playing their wings extremely wide and were confident enough to leave their wings out there, even when they went back to play defense," Long noted of the tactics. "They just let their wings and striker hang out and tried to find that space. It forced my wings to shadow them or almost play one-onone, Keeping them wide, it made it very hard for my center midfielders to be able to cover the football width of the field and try to keep those balls from going through. 

"I feel like in the second half we adjusted well... We were able to anticipate that and kind of slowed down their attack in the middle of the field. At the end of the day they did not score on us." 

Springfield Catholic certainly had its fair share of opportunities, though, and Osage did as well. 

Osage senior Robert Colonius had a breakaway shot with just over 23 minutes remaining in the first half from about 25 yards out that rolled inches just past the left post. A few minutes later junior Anthony Alberti rifled a 30-yard free kick just outside the post as well and senior Collin Chilton nearly beat the Fighting Irish keeper off the dribble at the top of the box.

Springfield Catholic ramped up some of the pressure in the final 40 minutes, forcing Osage to be sharp on defense and managed to break through on that fateful cross. Long said it initially appeared to be going wide, but the angle of the ball took a turn for the worse. 

"That is why you play those low, hard balls like that because anything can happen in front of the goal. The keeper is not going to be able to save everything on a 24-foot opening," the coach noted. "I thought he (Garrett Long) did a fantastic job."

Needing to score, Colonius found an open look with about 15 minutes left, but his rocket of a shot went straight to the keeper. Just two minutes later, freshman Nate Evans also got a decent look, but the shot went wide. The Indians were able to get the ball back in the attacking third as the final seconds dwindled down, but could not get a shot on frame. 

"I cannot be more proud of the way the boys have played and you could tell their heart was in it. They played their absolute guts out," Long said of his club. "Springfield Catholic was probably a much better technical and faster team, but I don't think they had more heart than us. Just did not capitalize on our opportunities to score and made one mistake on the defensive end. I told the boys this game could come down to one goal and it did."

The loss ended an eight-game winning streak for the Indians who made their third district championship game in the last 10 years and first since 2013. It was also Osage's first winning season since 2012. 

"It is special and something they remember hopefully," said Long who also noted that the program will be losing a few good seniors that will not be easy to replace. 

Springfield Catholic has been a thorn for Osage in the postseason, having now ended the season for the Indians for a fourth straight year. Now, the journey towards 2020 has begun where this program will look to take the next step forward. 

"When Coach (Mike) Hines was leaving I asked him, 'Same time, same place next year?' We see each other a lot in the offseason with club soccer so I'm sure we'll talk about that when we are watching our boys play club soccer down the road," Long said. "Nobody can deny where these kids have gone in two years, nobody can deny it.

"They easily could have gone to the next round and I feel like they know, had they gotten past this game, everyone else we would face it would be similar to that. I credit the schedule (Athletic Director) Clinton Hague and I put together to try to prepare these kids to play at this level and our kids responded. You cannot ask for anything more than that."

Helias Catholic pulls away from Camdenton in district championship

Camdenton was in good position. 

The Lakers trailed by just a goal at halftime in the championship game of the Class 3 District 9 championship at Helias Catholic Thursday night, but the defending champion Crusaders found their groove in the second half and pulled away for a 6-1 win. 

"I just think that there were some calls we felt maybe did not go our way and that is hard to battle against. No excuse, I thought we kind of let down a little bit, some of our guys got pinned up and Helias capitalized on their opportunities," Camdenton coach Chris Byington said.

"You just have to give it to Helias. They are a good team and they'll pick you apart. I think in the second half we did not really fall apart but just got disorganized with a few things. It stinks and is a disappointment, but there comes a day where you wake up, move on and life goes on. It is a great growing lesson."

Helias broke the deadlock with about 25 minutes remaining in the first half and scored a second goal just three minutes later, but Camdenton's Josh Gerdiman was quick to answer with a goal of his own with 21 minutes remaining before the break. The ball spent plenty of time in the midfield as neither side could really find a significant advantage. 

Nearly eight minutes into the second half, Helias was able to add a third goal from a header on a set piece outside the box and Byington described it as a dagger. 

"That third goal I know was the killer. That really kind of put a dagger in us a little bit and we just could not fix it," he said.

The Crusaders managed to make it 4-1 with just over 23 minutes remaining as a Helias forward breezed by a few defenders and found space to deliver a rocket shot. With just under 18 minutes to go, a Helias cross managed to sneak by a few defenders for another open shot inside the 18-yard box that hit the net as well. The final goal of the night came on a penalty kick with under nine minutes to go. Unfortunately for the Lakers, the speed of Helias did not allow for many offensive opportunities in the second half as the Lakers got their first true shot on frame with about 10 minutes remaining.

It was obviously not the conclusion Camdenton had in mind, but not a bad place to be considering the team had a chance to win some hardware after starting the season 1-7. It was the program's first district championship appearance since 2015. 

"I'm really proud of the boys. Good grief, we started off 1-7 and now we're 12-14 and got second in the district. We have not done that in four years and it is big," Byington noted. "It tells you about tenacity and I'm proud of these seniors. They've been through multiple head coaches and I'm going to miss them a ton next year. They add a lot to the program, but I'm looking forward to what is to come. I know the younger guys will step up and it will be good."

Byington said there was no key point when things turned around, but it was rather more of a mindset. Considering how things ended up in 2019, the Lakers will look to utilize the experience for a better start in 2020.

"I just think you have to keep your foot on the gas. You cannot base it off records," the coach explained. "We played tough opponents at the very beginning of the year, but it takes a good team to turn it around and get after it. 

"I'm excited about the core group coming up. I think they buy into what we have going, the culture and that is what you want."