Lucas Green would not be denied Thursday.
With experience telling him not to give up on a play until a whistle blows, Green overpowered a Glendale player for possession of the ball and proceeded to kick it into the back of the net for a 1-0 Nixa victory in a Class 4 District 5 semifinal.
With the ball bouncing in the penalty box and the Falcons ‘keeper on the other side of the goal, a Glendale defender initially was in between Green and the ball. But Green all but went right through the opponent en route to a clear path to the goal.
Green’s game-winner came with 5:42 remaining.
“Most people think if the defender gets there first, you've got to stop,” Green said. “But If you keep continuing sometimes, you might get lucky enough and go on through and score. You've got to stay hungry all the time. He had a little position on me. But I was like, 'I've got to go and get it.’"
Much to Eagles coach Evan Palmer’s delight, Green was following up his own miss.
“He's finally getting after it and not just thinking it is going in,” Palmer said, “We’re making sure to follow. We missed some goals this season because of that.”
The winning sequence saw Caeden Cloud pass the ball to Green in front of the Nixa goal. But Green wasn’t able to deliver a clean kick, after the ball bounced high and above his waist as he tried to kick it.
“Caeden beat his guy around the outside and kicked a beautiful ball across to Lucas away from the keeper, just like you want it,” Palmer said. “The ball came across, but it was a tough one to handle. Lucas was still able to finish.”
Nixa was in attack mode the majority of the second half, after Glendale controlled the ball for a good portion of the first half.
“At halftime, we got a little pep talk. It went a little better after that,” Green said. “I think we were all very nervous. We got the nerves out in the first half. We didn't have nerves in the second half. Glendale gave us a lot of trouble and then we gave them a lot of trouble, too.”
“I knew it was going to be a dogfight and I knew we were going to win,” defender Blake Reynolds said.
Nixa ‘keeper Mason Adair collected his second straight shutout.
The Eagles’ defenders don’t have a catchy nickname like their counterparts at Ozark, but they were prime-time performers opposite a Glendale offense that averaged 3.5 goals a match.
The Falcons took the teams’ regular-season meeting 3-2 in overtime.
“We locked down their two best guys,” Reynolds said, referring to Carson Titsworth and Isaac Chandler. “They're really good at cutting back in and getting shots off. Keeping them wide led to our success.”
“We went into the game knowing their wingers were really strong,” defender Sam Sellenriek said. “There was pressure on our wing-backs to keep those guys wide. The wingers were shut down pretty much the entire game.”
“Our defense played incredible,” Palmer said. “Their two wingers are very good. To contain them like we did was phenomenal.”
Since the loss to Glendale on Oct. 9, Nixa has given up just five goals in six matches. The Eagles are allowing an average of 1.2 goals a night. That’s the second lowest season average for Nixa’s defense over the past seven years.
“If one (defender) got beat tonight, another would slide in,” Palmer said. “They have worked together so well all year.”
“We try to cover for each other, in case something goes wrong,” Reynolds said. “We’re always there for each other.”
“We're a very good team on the field and I think we're even a tougher team mentally,” Sellenriek said. “Our mental game is very strong and we're so tight-knit. We're always there to support each other.”
Nixa halted its losing streak against Glendale at four matches.
“Those were the longest five minutes I've seen in a while,” Palmer said of the final five minutes. “They were on us and have such great players. We're very fortunate to get around them. It's a great win for our program.”
The Eagles (16-8) move on to the District final against No. 1 seed Ozark (23-2-2) at 5 p.m. Monday.
With Palmer turning in perhaps the best coaching job of his career, Nixa has matched its record from last season. The Eagles were a senior-laden bunch a year ago and had slew of first-time starters at the start of this season.
“We’ve had a lot of good boys who have stepped up this year. It's really shaped well,” Sellenriek said. “Over the season, we've been improving more and more. This was the pinnacle. We'll be looking to improve even more before Monday.
“We had a lot of changes this year and we weren't sure we would get there,” Palmer said. “Here we are at 16 wins and going to the championship game for the first time since 2020. It's nice to get back to a District final.”