Skip Smale-Murillo got a clean head on the ball off of a free kick inside the box.
It looked like the breakthrough Hickman needed to complete a two-goal comeback against Jefferson City. Instead, the ball bounced off the ground and into the arms of the Jays goalkeeper Eli Chapman and the Kewpies’ comeback hopes were dashed with 1:32 left.
After a couple of half-chances in the final minute, Hickman (1-2) fell 2-1 to Jefferson City (2-1) on Tuesday night.
The first half was slow and defensive, with Jefferson City playing compact. Neither team created many chances, but when the Jays got them, they made them count.
In the 29th minute, Jays forward Breck McGrail dribbled past a couple of Kewpie defenders and shot a rocket off the near post and in to break the deadlock. The goal was McGrails’ fourth in two games after a hat trick against Camdenton on Saturday.
Seven minutes later, Cale Heiberger got his first career goal with a chip that sailed over Hickman goalkeeper Spencer Johnson and bounced off the crossbar and into the net. Both players were right-footed, but scored with their weaker foot.
“Those are players who were opportunistic,” Jefferson City coach Scott Blake said. “Those are the kind of players we need. Players who can use both feet in the box and knock them in.”
Jefferson City took that lead into halftime and Hickman head coach Will Ross had to make some adjustments. Ross moved center back Smale-Murillo to the midfield to add more to an attack that looked non-existent in the first half.
Part of that was due to Hickman starting forward Leif Kammer missing out with an illness. He is expected to be back over the next couple of days according to Ross.
In the second half, Kavanah Bollinger and the Kewpie offense was given life with the addition of Smale-Murillo at midfield, leading to more chances.
“I knew they were going to make a move,” Blake said. “Moving (Smale-Murillo) was going to be potentially dangerous and Kavanah Bollinger is a game-changer.”
“We always say a two-goal lead is the most dangerous lead in soccer,” Blake said.
In the 63rd minute, Bollinger was brought down in the box while receiving a free kick to earn Hickman a penalty. He scored to pull the Kewpies a goal back, with 16 minutes left on the clock.
Playing high school soccer is a new experience for Bollinger, who comes from STLFC’s academy team in St. Louis. Ross said it has been a transition for Bollinger, who is now playing in a more physical and less technically advanced league.
“I think he took himself out of the game a little bit,” Ross said, “He picked it up in the second half and he gave us a goal when we needed it.”
But Bollinger’s effort was too little too late as Hickman couldn’t take advantage of the opportunities they received in the second half.
“I was pleased with the second half, but we have to play a full 80 (minutes) and that’s where we are struggling with right now,” Ross said.
Hickman had a lot of moving parts tonight, with Smale-Murillo moving to the midfield and Thawn Khai moving from forward to center back in the second half.
“For us it’s a little chaotic right now with a lot of people running around in different spots” Ross said. “Once we get that rotation together we have a higher ceiling than most teams have at this point in the year.”
Next up, the Kewpies play De Smet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hickman. The game is the second in a stretch of four games in five days for the Kewpies.
Battle soccer pulls out nailbiter
Battle soccer claimed a 2-1 victory against Moberly in a back-and-forth match on Tuesday night.
The Spartans jumped out to a 1-0 lead early. After Moberly tied the game with 12 minutes to go, Battle scored a late goal with three minutes left to win the game.
The Spartans will return to the pitch on Thursday at Mexico High School.
Rock Bridge soccer stays perfect
Rock Bridge soccer remains undefeated at 6-0 on the year following its 4-3 victory over Helias on Tuesday night.
Leading by 3-0 nearing the half, Rock Bridge let up, and Helias managed to cut the Bruins’ lead to 3-2 by halftime. Helias scored again just after halftime to knot the game at 3, but a 68th minute finish from Jeremiah Johnson proved to be enough to secure a narrow victory for the Bruins.
The team will compete next on Friday in the Parkview Tournament at Kickapoo High School in Springfield.
Tolton soccer suffers first loss of the season
Tolton soccer fell to Guadalupe Center 4-3 on Tuesday night.
The Trailblazers take the field next at 5 p.m. on Thursday at home against St. Francis Borgia.