Sean Poppe and J.J. Voysey had all but conceded they would never score a goal during their Ozark careers. They would have been fine with such a fate, given the Tigers’ resounding success a year ago and this season.
It made for quite a capper of Ozark’s celebration Tuesday that Poppe and Voysey, both seniors, got in on the fun of scoring on ‘Senior Night’ during a 5-0 whipping of Carthage.
Amidst playing in a downpour at times, Poppe and Voysey helped Ozark (21-2) close out a 9-0 run through the COC and repeat as conference champs.
“I kind of had accepted not getting a goal and I was OK with it, as long as we have one more point than the other team,” Poppe said. “It’s a team effort. We’re not selfish. Whoever gets the ball in the back of the net, it doesn’t matter. Honestly, though, it feels really good to get my first goal, a little bit of a dream come true.”
“It was amazing,” Voysey added. “But it’s nothing if I didn’t have teammates with me to give me a pass. I just happened to be the one to finish it. For me to finally feel what they’re feeling when they’re scoring, it’s great to be a part of and to have it be on ‘Senior Night’ is awesome.”
Their teammates and coach were happy for them.
“It couldn’t have worked out any better,” said fellow senior, forward Troy Davidson. “Those guys have put in so much work. Seeing them get their names in the scorebook is really cool. I’m proud of them.”
“It was a special night for the seniors,” coach Tom Davidson added.
Troy Davidson started Tuesday’s scoring with a first-half goal. Another senior, forward T.K. Stine, also had a goal and sophomore midfielder Renato Granja recorded his first career goal.
With the first half being played in a constant rain and the temperature dipping into the 40s, both sides struggled to set up for shots on goal. Ozark broke through 30 minutes into the first half, took a 2-0 lead into halftime and piled on in the second half.
Ozark also played in the rain last week at West Plains.
“It didn’t rain as hard at West Plains as it did a couple of times tonight. But it rained the entire game,” Tom Davidson said. “The ball was slick, their feet were slick. I was worried, ‘Oh my gosh, will somebody slip on fall or will somebody get injured?’ But we’re fortunate and blessed that we got through it and we handled it well.
“I tell the boys, ‘You have to come out here and find a way to win in every condition,’” he added. “We found another way to win tonight. That’s what I’m most proud of. I don’t know if we had our best stuff tonight. With the conditions, we weren’t able to pass the ball and control it like we’re capable of. But it’s a 5-0 win.”
The cold and rain tested the players’ mental strength.
“I’m not used to this cold,” Stine said. “Back home, it’s like 150 degrees. It’s a big difference. The cold tightens my muscles. But the coaches and teammates push you. You’ve got to stay out there with them. It’s all about the teamwork and moving forward.”
“The other team is playing in the same conditions,” Troy Davidson said. “The hype around ‘Senior Night’ carried us to victory.”
“The conditions were terrible,” Poppe said. “This is the coldest game I’m ever played in. I’m not going to lie, I was numb from the top down. You can lose focus easily. But if you keep your focus, you’ll be fine and that’s what we did.”
The conditions, along with wrapping up the COC championship, made it a memorable night for many years to come.
“Sometimes, when you were out there and the guys were laughing while the rain was coming down on us, it was a cool feeling,” Poppe said. But in the end it was awful to play in.”
“I said to somebody at halftime, ‘We just made another memory,’” Tom Davidson said. “If I had a nickel for every game I've stood out in the rain, I'd be a rich man. But I’ve never had this kind of weather on a ‘Senior Night.’ I feel bad with all the parents being out here. But it is what it is. We got through it, it was a great game and nobody got hurt.”