SMITHVILLE, Mo. — Calvin Forrester delayed the celebration for just a moment, but he knew.
Early in the second half of overtime Thursday night, the Platte County senior midfielder split a pair of defenders, but Warriors goalkeeper Caden Egbert reacted well off his line to cut down the angle. Forrester gently chipped a shot that never went too high.
The ball bounced once and into the far left side of the net, setting off an immediate celebration of a key 1-0 sudden-death Suburban Conference Blue Division victory at Smithville High School.
“I knew it was in,” said Forrester, who collected an overtime winner in a similar 1-0 victory at Kearney earlier this season. “You could see defenders weren’t getting there. It feels great. It was amazing.”
Platte County (13-2, 7-0) took control of the conference title race in the first meeting between the two rivals this season. Smithville one all three meetings in the series last year by three different one-goal margins, including 3-2 in the Class 4 District 8 championship game.
Now, Smithville likely needs a win in the return trip to Platte City next Monday to earn a split.
“We enjoy it for now, but we know we will see them again — maybe more than once,” Platte County coach Ashlyn Brantley.
Predictably, the matchup featured few clear-cut offensive chances, physical play and verbal sparring between the players. There were three total yellow cards issued.
Smithville enjoyed its best stretch of play early in the second half, forcing Platte County’s senior goalkeeper Patrick Sullivan into one of his four saves and offering him a reprieve on another. In the 52nd minute, the Warriors forced a turnover near the right corner flag, and Marcus Eastridge fired in a cross almost immediately to find Zach Miller in the middle of the box.
However, Miller didn’t make solid contact on the shot, and Sullivan scoop up an awkwardly spinning ball that didn’t have much pace.
About a minute later, a bounding ball into the box found its way to Lawson Richards on the back post, but his header sailed over the ball. Platte County ended up recording the second of what is now three straight shutouts. The Pirates have recorded 13 straight clean sheets, including a stretch of 10 straight during an undefeated start to the season that came to an end with a 1-2 showing in the recent Panther Classic.
“He’s a player that you can count on to be doing the right thing back there,” Brantley said of Sullivan. “When called upon, he can give you the save that you need. He’s doing a great job.”
Platte County earned plenty of set piece opportunities but couldn’t seem to find the right connection on corners and free kicks.
In the 58th minute, Nathan Macaluso, a senior midfielder, found senior center defender Isaac Havemeier unmarked on a Pirates corner kick, but the header from 10 yards out didn’t have enough velocity nor placement to challenge Egbert, who made five saves. In the 65th minute, senior defender Sawyer Allen’s long throw-in from the left reached Macaluso in the box, but his header went high and caromed off the football field goal post.
A minute later, Allen and Macaluso connected on an almost identical setup, but Macaluso’s right-footed shot from the top of the 18-yard box went high and right.
“You always want to score on set pieces, but Smithville is a great team,” Forrester said. “They’ve got a lot of big players that can win it out of the air, so that makes it hard on those to get chances and goals.”
In the closing minutes of regulation, the teams exchanged late chances.
Smithville’s Marcus Garza fired in a speculative right-footed shot from deep and wide on the left, and Sullivan went high to his left for his most notable stop. Platte County answered with senior midfielder Luke Bunge with a dangerous free kick from 37 yards out that ultimately came to nothing.
Platte County squandered two more free kicks in the first half of overtime with Bunge and then Havemeier firing high on back-to-back chances from about 25 yards out, and the Pirates nearly found the winner a couple of minutes later with sophomore forward Gavin Nichols springing open behind the defense and latching onto a pass. However, Egbert came off his line to snuff out the chance.
“That’s why we talk about finishing, getting shots on frame,” Brantley said. “We want to be able to finish those small chances that we get against a team like this.”
Earlier this season, Forrester netted the winner in the opening minute of overtime against Kearney.
Platte County waited a little longer this time around. Nichols sent a short pass to Forrester in the 93rd minute, and he didn’t hesitate with the big touch to move into the box. The brief but marauding run left two Warriors defenders trying in vain to recover, and no one could find a path to the back post to clear the ball off the line.
Forrester and the entire roster of players then made their way to the fence on the far side of the field to greet the small but enthusiastic group of Platte County fans in attendance. He first hit the traditional knee slide across the turf while pumping his fists and then received a generous dousing from teammates’ water bottles.
“Team works hard the whole game. The two halves, no goals, probably had a few chances we could have scored on,” Forrester said. “First overtime, no goals scored, and just to come out, keep the work rate up and great assist by Gavin on the goal, (the defenders) were coming down kind of hard. I took a big touch. Goalie came out, got a little bit of a lucky finish, but we take them all.”
The start to the game was even more plodding with the first real chance for either team on a header Havemeier sent over the bar off of a Macaluso corner in the 10th minute. Havemeier, who anchors a formidable back row in Platte County’s new 3-5-2 formation with Allen and senior Spencer Hay on either side, also took the first free kick in the attacking half and struck a left-footed shot that also didn’t end up on frame.
Minus senior forward Palmer Boekhout due to injury, Platte County junior forward Felix Victore also created some havoc. He was ruled offsides trying to play a rebound off of Nichols’ troublesome left-footed shot in the 21st minute, and two minutes later, he sent a header from deep on the back post into a scrum in front of net that resulted in a foul against the Pirates and an injury to Smithville defender Regan Dunn that required treatment and a head wrap for him to return the game later in the first half.
Platte County continued to press in the remainder for the break. Ahoy Victore, a sophomore midfielder, sent a cross from the left in the 27th minute that junior forward Josh Nelson latched onto, using a left-footed shot from a crowded area in front of goal to force a save from Egbert. The resulting corner resulted in Nichols collected a loose ball and hitting a shot over the bar from an inviting spot in the box.
Forrester and Havemeier took free kicks early in the second half for Platte County, the first resulting in a shot that went high and the second going into a dangerous spot that came to nothing. The Pirates didn’t take advantage of the long spells on the front foot but ultimately came up with the result needed to move into position to win the conference title for the second time in three years.
Platte County and Smithville will surely play another tight matchup in a little more than a week because that’s how the rivals have played each other for years.
“Yes. Always,” Brantley said. “This is what we expect, and we expect it again.”
Platte County 5, Kearney 0
For the second time this season, the Pirates took a victory in a game called early due to lightning in the area.
Bunge scored late in the first half, and Platte County added four more after the break to take the 5-0 lead Tuesday at Pirate Stadium. The inclement weather arrived in the 71st minute and with a potentially indefinite stoppage to play, Kearney agreed to stop the game early and take the result.
Platte County won 4-0 over Winnetonka under almost identical circumstances on September 30.
Five different players tallied goals for Platte County in completing the season sweep of Kearney, which held the Pirates scoreless in the first meeting for all of regulation before Forrester’s winner in the opening moments of the first half of overtime. This time, Bunge tallied the opener in the 31st minute on an assist from senior reserve midfielder Tyler Bean.
“That helped us a lot,” said Platte County senior midfielder Jake Kingery, who tallied an assist just before the stoppage in this matchup. “In that first game (against Kearney), we had so many chances on goal. We couldn’t put one away. This game, Luke gets an early goal, bags it. We’re up on the scoreboard; we get the confidence; we put away four more.”
In the second half, Platte County needed 8 minutes to double the lead with sophomore reserve midfielder Conner Currence hitting the scoresheet on an assist from Nichols, and Ahoy Victore netted off of Macaluso’s corner kick in the 55th minute to make it 3-0. Havemeier converted a penalty kick in the 58th minute, and Kingery played a corner kick short to Forrester in the 64th minute that resulted in the final goal.
“Put the ball down real quick. I saw Calvin run in,” Kingery said. “I played it to the top of the box. Calvin takes a touch and hits it. We get a goal from it.”
Eight minutes later, the game was over with Platte County setting up the crucial meeting with Smithville two nights later. The three Highway 92 rivals generally decide the Blue Division title, and the Pirates essentially eliminated Kearney from the conversation with the result.
Platte County 1, Staley 0
Playing a rare Friday game, the Pirates scored the lone goal at Pirate Stadium and ran their winning streak to four since the only two losses of the season.
Nichols scored off of Macaluso’s corner kick in the 55th minute to give Platte County the 1-0 lead, and Sullivan finished off his third straight clean sheet. Staley dropped to 8-5-1 with the loss.