In contrast to the cool customer persona Caleb Lepant usually exudes on the pitch, the Ozark midfielder wore a wide smile and raced upfield after netting a goal in the Tigers’ 6-0 Wednesday whipping of Kickapoo.
“It was raw emotion,” Lepant said of his unabashed display of joy. “It’s a huge rivalry game, so the emotions started going.”
Never mind how easy Ozark made its conquest of the Chiefs look, this was a win the Tigers dearly wanted and savored, even as the match became a rout. Kickapoo has been SWMO’s standard-bearer the past two seasons and had won each of the teams’ three previous meetings, including last year’s Class 4 District 5 final.
“We knew they were going to play us hard and not roll over and die,” Lepant said. “Fortunately, we got the job done. To put those goals in, we showed we are the team in the area to do that.”
“We knew they'd be a tough team. They always give us a hard match,” forward Phin Scott said. “My childhood friends are on their team, so I knew there would be a lot of trash-talking. I wanted to take it to them.”
Ozark (7-1) made Kickapoo look like Willard. Just as was the case in Ozark’s home-opening 8-0 win versus Willard, coach Zack Owens’ bunch overwhelmed the Chiefs from the get-go
Lepant and Scott both posted a brace. Grant Ogle and Alex Williams each added a goal.
By scoring six goals, the Tigers matched their total offensive output from their four previous matches with Kickapoo.
“I expected us to lay it on them. But 6-0 was higher than my expectations,” Lepant said. "I didn't expect them to score, but thought maybe they'd squeeze one in.”
Kickapoo owned an obvious edge in strength and physicality on Ozark the past two seasons, but no more.
The Tigers’ high-quality execution was such that they set themselves up to make repeated shots on goal.
“It was really fun and exciting any time we were in the attacking-third because we were getting so many chances,” rising star Scott said. “The anticipation of waiting to get the ball and take a chance on goal was a lot of fun.”
Goalkeeper Carson Sandgren and “The West Bluff Wall” recorded their fifth shutout.
The reason this likely didn’t result in an 8-0 final was Owens pulled his starters with more than half of the second half still to be played.
Owens was glad to see his jayvee players continue to keep Kickapoo (4-4) scoreless.
“That was very important to us. It was nice to see we could keep the shutout intact,” he said. “We were able to get basically our entire younger group in for the last 25 minutes of the second half. That's great experience. (Kickapoo) had a few of their starters still out there. We didn't drop off too much as far as our production.”