Tuesday night was a Blaise Parker kind of night.
That much was evident after No. 4 seed Hickman finished celebrating a 1-0 victory over top seed Helias in the semifinals of the Class 3 District 10 tournament at 179 Soccer Park in Jefferson City. Senior forward Jordan Cox scored the winner in the 59th minute.
The setting, a poorly-lit, torn-up field next to a set of railroad tracks, fit the game — and Parker’s style. It was a tremendous struggle that was muddy, physical and tough. Parker emerged tired, wet and filthy. But most important, he was smiling with the kind of satisfaction that comes from a postseason win.
Parker, a junior, is a scrapper in every sense of the word. He bounces around the field like his long, shaggy brown haircut. The junior looks like a soccer player, average height and thin, with seemingly boundless energy. A starter last season, the speed of varsity play was something that Parker said he had to adjust to.
The center forward has four goals and more than 10 assists this season, providing much-needed offense for the Kewpies and proving he has grown as a player. Parker said his hunger for the ball is what leads to most of his success.
“Whenever I go out there, every ball is mine,” he said. “And if I can, I put the ball in the net for the team.”
Although the forward loves to fly around the ball, he said he’s becoming a smarter player as he adds experience.
“I’ve learned more to use my body, to work angles,” he said. “I’m smarter around the ball and without the ball.”
Hickman coach John Strodtman said he has seen Parker mature this season.
“He likes to win, he knows where the goal is,” Strodtman said. “He’s working hard right now.”
Strodtman briefly benched Parker earlier this season for not playing smart but was impressed with how he responded.
“He wants to learn, and that’s all you can ask from a player,” he said. “He comes and asks how to improve and when you tell him something, he transfers it out onto the field.”
Although offensive numbers are nice, Parker knows that wins is ultimately the only stat that matters.
“The team is the biggest part,” he said. “All the seniors are my friends, and this will be the last year I’ll play with them, so we just want to make it memorable.”
Hickman continues its season in the district championship at 7 p.m. Thursday against Jefferson City in the same park.