Trevor Carlton didn't play in last year's Ozark-Nixa contest, so the Tigers sophomore goalkeeper could be forgiven for not immediately being able to recall who won.
"Last year, I remember staying for the varsity game and seeing it go to a PK-shootout," Carlton said. "I don't remember the outcome, but remember thinking to myself, 'Wow, Nixa is a good team.'"
Carlton surely won't have trouble remembering Ozark's 1-0 triumph over Nixa on Tuesday. He recorded his third shutout on the season and the Eagles made him earn it.
Nixa had 10 shots on the goal against Carlton in the first half alone.
"I was very busy. I kept seeing shot after shot," Carlton said. "I felt we were doing well (defensively), but then they would poke the ball right in the corner for an opening and take a shot on goal. You’ve got to be ready for those.
"The second half was a little boring," he added. "But I would much prefer that in this type of game than the first half."
Carlton admittedly was a bit overzealous on a play in the first half when he ventured too far from his post to try to chase down a loose ball near a corner of the field. Nixa tracked down the ball before Carlton could get a handle on it and the Eagles nearly made a shot in what was an empty goal. Carlton was in the unenviable role of spectator as the ball bounced in front of the Eagles goal and barely sailed over the top of the post.
"I had the same thing happen to me in another game in which I was able to kick the ball out. I thought I had time tonight to get it back to our players," Carlton said. "Next game I’ll just play smart ball and kick it out.
"When I saw the ball bounce, I was thinking, ‘Why am I standing here, I should be running back and trying to save that,'" he added. "It was very close."
Carlton was otherwise flawless, making several splendid saves.
"He had to make save after save," coach Zack Owens said. "One thing I preach a lot is there are 10 guys who the ball has to go through negatively before it gets to him. We try to take the pressure off of him a bit and hopefully he can rely on those other 10 field players before he has to step up. But when he has had to step up, he’s been good."
Ozark (6-4 overall and 2-1 in the COC) managed just two shots on goal, but was efficient. Caleb Sandgren scored off an assist from Drake Ogle less than six minutes into the contest.
Ogle took advantage of a rare chance to play on the offensive end.
"He’s been playing outside back, but we looked to change up a few things tonight," Owens said. "We’re lucky in that we have players who can play different roles. Drake is one of them and we put him out on a wing tonight. Nixa gave him too much space and he was able to take advantage of it. He got the ball on his foot, had his head up, found a good pass and the rest is history."
"(Ogle) had a great run down the side and I decided to drop back and run down the center because I thought I had an opening," Sandgren said. "He made a great pass to me, right to my foot. I just had to take one little touch around the defender and I found the back of the net."
It was Sandgren's second goal on the season.
"He’s always had a knack for finding goals," Owens said. "That’s not something that is just luck. Skill-wise, he’s able to put himself in those positions. He’s always been able to find the back of the net."
Sandgren never would have guessed his goal would be the lone score on the night.
"I had no idea that would be it. I thought there were going to be more goals," Sandgren said. "We were hoping to have more shots on the goal, especially with (Landon Myers) not being their main ‘keeper. But he played very well."
Myers, normally a defender, subbed for the second straight match for senior starter Nick Reid, who was being quarantined.
"He’s been in contact, sending me tips," Myers said of Reid. "He’s been encouraging me and giving me motivation."
Myers had the save of the night by making a full-fledged diving stop to his left in the second half.
"I saw the angle it was going and had my positioning right," he said.
Myers hadn't played 'keeper since he was in junior high.
"I was a goalkeeper until the eighth grade, then I switched to a field player and played defense until now," Myers said. "I kind of like defense on the field more, but I don’t mind playing goalie. It’s fun for me.
"We don’t necessarily know who we will have in goal next year," he added. "I guess I will be one of the options. This is helping me get more confidence in goal."