Typical of a defender, Ozark grad Nick Rushing didn’t receive much fanfare until he was named all-state last season. Likewise, current Tigers defenders Seth Glossip and Mason Demoss have worked anonymously while putting themselves in position for possible post-season recognition.
Glossip and Demoss moved into the spotlight Tuesday, as Ozark extended its streak of shutouts to four by blanking Republic 6-0 in a Class 4 District 11 semifinal.
Ozark (23-2), which tied its school record for single-season wins, has eight shutouts on the season while outscoring its opponents 94-18. Do the math and the opposition is averaging 0.7 goals a night. No one has scored more than one goal on the Tigers in nearly a month.
“Everybody was talking about our offense going into this season and kind of slept on our defense,” midfielder Carson Amstutz said. “Now, I think people are coming to the conclusion that we’re actually a really good defensive team. Mason and Seth communicate well and are strong in the back.”
In addition to Rushing, Ozark’s defense lost to graduation a year ago Lawson Spence, the program’s career goals leader.
“Nick and Lawson controlled everything last year from the back up to the top. That was big shoes to fill,” Demoss said. “Seth and I were pretty nervous about that. We got to play alongside (Rushing and Spence) last year and they told us to keep doing what we’re doing. They were great leaders, about the best we could have had.”
Demoss and Glossip are both in the 6-foot-2, 180-pound range and have made it a struggle for opposing midfielders and forwards to gain position on them.
“We’re both very physical. Seth is nicknamed ‘The Monster,’” Demoss said. “It’s great our defense has put it all together these last four games and we hope we can keep it going through the playoffs.”
Complementing the play of Ozark’s defenders has been goalkeeper Mark Shetvnin.
“Seth, Mason, Joe (Van Hoessen) and Caleb (Clancy) have all been great and Mark has been steady, too,” coach Tom Davidson said. “Mark cleans up everything that comes back there. Defense is the one part of our team that has made a huge difference. We’ve been scoring and moving the ball well and those guys have been solid back there. The defense is playing very well. The communication has been very steady back there. You can always tie if you’re not letting the other team score.”
The fact Ozark was was in a scoreless tie with Republic through 20 minutes in the first half began to test the patience of Amstutz and his fellow forwards and midfielders.
“We were starting to get a little frustrated,” Amstutz said. “They were starting to pile guys into the box. We’re not used to having nine guys in the box and it was frustrating us.”
“It was a slow start,” Davidson said. “Sometimes, you have a little bit of a hiccup. Once we got the first goal, I felt a lot more comfortable and I’m sure the guys did, too.”
“We couldn’t finish and knew we had the ability to finish," Demoss added. “Once we got that first goal. I felt we could keep rolling and keep piling them in.”
Ozark led 2-0 at the half and broke it open early in the second half. Amstutz and TK Stine tallied two goals apiece and Jose Ortega and Eli Lairmore each had one.
Ozark will play for a District championship for the fourth straight year. The Tigers and Branson (19-5) will battle in Thursday’s 5 p.m. final. It will be the Pirates’ first championship game appearance.