Once again the SoBoCo Eagles soccer team was deadlocked at the end of regulation.
Once again the Eagles found the right connection to score the winning goal to advance to the next round of the soccer playoffs.
Rece Gilmore’s shot to the far post zipped into the net eight minutes into the first overtime period Tuesday night to give the Eagles a 1-0 win over Oak Grove in a cold, windy game in Ashland.
The win propels the Eagles into the quarter finals, one win away from returning to the Final Four for the fourth time. However, the Eagles will have a stiff challenge on Saturday when they travel to Monett – a team that coach Chris Miller says has been playing as well as any team in Missouri all season.
“They have the best player in Class 2 up top as their scorer,” Miller said, “and they will pack that place to support their team. It’s a long trip and it’s gonna be a big challenge.”
But the Eagles overcame the challenge in an OT win over Tolton for the district title and Tuesday had a different challenge from Oak Grove – a puzzle that Gilmore solved with the winning goal.
Gilmore took a lead pass from Sam Bonderer and broke the opposite way the defender – and everyone else thought he would go, away from the goal.
“I thought Rece would take the ball towards the middle and shoot,” Bonderer said, “but he got open and ripped it.”
Gilmore said he was just trying to find an opening and put the ball towards one post or the other.
“I saw the defender was playing me towards the middle, so I just took a couple of steps to the corner and saw the goalie go that way, so I shot to the far post.”
Gilmore’s shot from 20-yards out stayed on the ground, crossed the center of the field and just nicked the far post as it rolled to the back of the net. Gilmore’s teammates poured onto the field in celebration and a packed SoBoCo stands leaped to their feet. Oak Grove players, meanwhile fell to their knees in shock.
The visitors had initially confounded the Eagles with their alignment of five players in the midfield, however, Miller said the Eagles handled it as well as could be expected.
“A lot of guys stepped up today,” Miller said, “because they are a tough team to match up to play. When you’re out-numbered like that in the midfield, you have to play smart. I thought our midfielders, Austin King, Ethan Osborne and Trenton Roney played a really good game. Roney doesn’t play like a freshman anymore and Ethan was spectacular in the first half. We have a lot of young guys there (in midfield) and they will make mistakes, but they keep growing up each game.”
The Eagles carried the momentum throughout the game, with a number of shots on goal in the first half. In the final 30 minutes of regulation, the visitors only forced Eagles goalie to make one play and they had but two corners.
But the Eagles could not put direct shots on goal. Time after time SoBoCo’s Rajesh Bennett, Gilmore and others either put the ball wide of the net or high over the crossbar.
“We didn’t get it done in the final third,” Miller said. “When you play young guys up front and when they’re trying to play too fast, it shows. Their keeper made a couple of good saves and we didn’t put them away when we had the opportunity.”
However, the Eagles controlled the game with their midfield and defense and in the OT, Bonderer got the ball to Gilmore in the open and Gilmore buried the goal to move the Eagles another step closer to another Final Four.

By Bruce Wallace