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With Kirk and Johnson sacrificing themselves, Franck nets hat trick in title tilt win


REPUBLIC — Debate can go on for days within soccer circles whether a player who draws a foul in the box should also be the player to take the ensuing penalty kick. But there’s a strong consensus in Nixa’s camp that the player to draw such a penalty should absolutely be credited with an assist if a goal follows.

The Lady Eagles’ London Kirk and Jade Johnson were both unsung heroes, at least on the stats sheet, in Nixa’s 3-1 win in the Class 4 District 5 championship opposite Kickapoo on Monday.

Kirk drew a penalty on the Lady Chiefs two minutes into the match to set up the Lady Eagles’ first goal and Johnson drew a penalty in the second half for their final score.

“It's sad they don't get (an assist), but they really do deserve one,” coach Evan Palmer said.

Both Kirk and Johnson were more than glad to take one for their team.

“I got my left ankle taken out. But it's all worth it in the end,” Johnson said. “I'll put myself in front of (a defender) for that, it's worth it.”

“I pushed the ball around (a Kickapoo defender) and she stuck her leg out,” Kirk said. “(The fall) hurt a little because I was kind of twisted. But it's worth the pain.”

Kirk and Johnson helped set up teammate Shaelee Franck for a hat trick that included two penalty kick goals.

Franck, too, would like to see players in such a scenario be awarded an assist.

“I’m glad they sacrificed themselves to give us a goal,” Franck said. “One thing we need is for everyone to be aggressive in the box area.”

With Franck being the first Nixa player, girl or boy, to reach the 30-goal mark in a season, it’s no surprise she is the Lady Eagles’ choice to boot a penalty kick.

“We have a bunch of girls who can finish and If we're up, we will let the girl take it whoever it was who drew the penalty,” Palmer said. “When the game is in the balance, you've got to go with your PK specialist.”

“I'm glad he lets me take them,” Franck said. “I've had really good accuracy and feel confident when I take them.”

Franck scored easily on both penalty kicks, with the Kickapoo ‘keeper going one direction and her kick going the other and at the back of the net.

The sophomore forward went with her left foot for her first penalty kick goal and with her right for her second penalty kick goal.

“I faked to the right,” Franck said of her first goal. “Usually, with my left foot I will hit in the left corner. I kind of will make my eyes look to the right and (the ‘keeper) will look at my eyes, so I am able to hit it to the left corner.”

She was proud to score off of both feet. Her second penalty kick goal came off of her right foot went right.

“I usually take PKs with my left, so that was a change for me,” Franck said. ‘I wanted to kind of trip her up and not make her think I was going to go the same way again. It worked out really good. It's fun to be able to shoot with both feet.”

Franck’s second goal was a thing of beauty. She juked a couple Kickapoo defenders, basically into submission, freeing herself directly in front of the Nixa goal. Franck was so alone she was able to position her body parallel to the ‘keeper and again scored with ease.

Franck’s goals were a prime example of the perplexity she creates on opposing scouting reports.

“I'm confident in both of my feet and I have a good fake both (directions),” she said. “I love faking people out, especially at the top of the box. I'm always confident I can shoot it right there. I kind of felt like I had the ball forever, but it went by so by fast I didn't process it much.”

Kickapoo came into the match having outscored its last four opponents 30-0. But Nixa dominated the six-time defending District champion Lady Chiefs.

Kickapoo did not have a shot on goal in the first half and didn’t get on the scoreboard until less than 11 minutes remained.

The Lady Chiefs had won 16 District matches in a row. Their last District loss was to Nixa in 2016.

Kickapoo has burned Nixa in the past on corner kicks by pulling out the ball, before attacking. That strategy was repeatedly denied this time around.

“We’ve known they do that and we’ve been preparing for it,” Johnson said. “If they come out wide like that and have two people out, they send more people. We came with them. We followed them and did the best we can.”

“We've worked on defending their corners a lot,” Palmer siad. “When they came out and did that, we were ready for them. It wasn't as effective for them as it's been in the past. Our girls have learned and were smart about where to go. You could see the maturity, how they stepped up and communicated the whole time and were on top of things."

The Lady Eagles controlled the ball the majority of the night and repeatedly went on the attack, setting themselves up for scoring opportunities either off a pass or on a breakaway dribble.

“We had some nice chances in the second half,” Palmer said. “We’ve got to be a little better at finishing as we go forward.”

Nixa (22-1), which has won 18 straight, advances to the Quarterfinals and will travel to Blue Springs (15-4-1) on Saturday. The teams did not meet each other in regular-season play. The Lady Eagles won two of three matches against Kansas City opponents this season.