Smith-Cotton boys soccer dismantled St. Pius X at home Wednesday, scoring 10 goals before halftime at Tiger Stadium in Sedalia to remain unbeaten in the West Central Conference.
Blake Grupe, Jordan Lawson, Alex Esquivel and Jonathan Lopez scored two goals apiece and Alan Castillo and Serge Zayats added one goal each in less than 40 minutes.
The Warriors attack, in rare moments of possession, was stiff and brittle and surrendered command upon initial Smith-Cotton challenges.
Manny Cobos nearly tied the match at one with a redirected corner kick five minutes into the game, but was wide right. Colin Cummings, one of two St. Pius X seniors, had the next-best chance attacking solo. His shot from more than 20 yards away was above the crossbar but below the football goal post on Heckart Field.
Grupe scored first for the Tigers in the fourth minute, cleaning up a blocked Smith-Cotton corner kick. Five minutes later, Lawson received a long pass, juggled past the Warrior goalkeeper and, alone in the keeper’s box, parked the ball nearside and low.
The St. Pius X back line played high and were susceptible to long passes, given the attacking Tigers stay onside. This was an exploit the Warriors (4-7) failed to adjust for.
Head coach Ethan Weller commended the Tigers for recognizing its opponent’s weakness.
“I thought the kids did a good job tonight of understanding what (St. Pius X) was doing,” Weller said. “As far as, their backs were high and spread out, and (Smith-Cotton) really did a good job of playing the weak side.”
Smith-Cotton led 3-0 after Grupe’s second score and 4-0 within two minutes, after Alex Esquivel scored on a Tigers breakaway.
Lawson successfully got behind his defender and scored a second goal in the 16th minute. In the 19th minute, Grupe hit Lopez who hit Esquivel for a tap-in, and Smith-Cotton led 6-0.
In the last five years, the Warriors have finished .500 or better. And while the Tigers have not lost to St. Pius X since Sept. 2014, Weller said he did not expect to mercy-rule Wednesday’s opponent.
“That’s not a typical (St. Pius X) team,” Weller said. “They’ve lost quite a few kids over the last couple of years. We weren’t expecting what we saw … It was a little bit shocking that we kind of had our way with them.”
Castillo set up a goal in the 27th minute with a touch to Zayats, who dribbled from 20 yards out and finished on the near side, right. Castillo scored his only goal three minutes later on a Smith-Cotton counter-attack.
Lopez scored his second goal with eight minutes to play. He struggled to trap Zayats’ pass, adjusted, and shot at left side of the goal with his right foot. Smith-Cotton led 9-0 with plenty of time for an early game-winner.
Wednesday, the Tigers had 10 more players on its roster than the Warriors, 25 to 15. It is not uncommon for Smith-Cotton to substitute more than four players at once.
Weller said he essentially has two varsity rosters, and the internal competition has improved Smith-Cotton’s program as a whole.
“It’s good, but it’s almost a negative too,” Weller said. “Because there are kids who, in other years, would start and play the whole game, or a lot of time, and they have to sub or get less time.
“When this group came in, practices the most competitive they’ve ever been, because you’re fighting for spots now. It wasn’t always like that.”
Lopez’s free kick after a St. Pius X yellow card was blocked with seven minutes to play. Lopez nearly scored with 3:32 to play, but the Warriors goalkeeper foiled him with a sliding challenge.
Finally, with less than two minutes to play, Lopez had a shot near goal deflected straight up. Zayats was there to clean up the attack with his chest.
Smith-Cotton (9-2-1) travels to Springfield, Missouri for the Kickapoo Tournament on Friday, Sept. 23. The Tigers are scheduled to face Kickapoo and Jefferson City on Friday, and Sacred Heart on Saturday.
Alex Agueros can be reached at 660-826-1000, ext. 1483 or on Twitter @abagueros2