The Panthers starting left back collected a return pass from senior midfielder Carson Cavitt-Wells and placed his shot past stranded Oak Park goalkeeper Claudio Vergara to open the game’s scoring in the third minute. The Panthers tacked on two more in the second half to book the team’s first trip to the state quarterfinals since 2012 with a 3-0 win Tuesday, Nov. 3 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex.
“It’s a wonderful feeling,” Cavitt-Wells said. “This round has always haunted us. Coming out tonight we really felt the pain of the last couple of years. We wanted to take it to the man tonight. We came out with a bang. It was a great play by Noah,. He called for the one-two and I saw him all the way.”
In the playoffs for the third time in four years, Park Hill South (24-3) now faces a trip to Rockhurst on Saturday, Nov. 7 with a win guaranteeing a state trophy. The Hawklets defeated Blue Springs South 3-0 in their sectional on the same night.
Rockhurst was also the opponent the last time the Park Hill South made the quarterfinals — a 2-0 win for the private-school power.
Park Hill South stumbled the past two years to Staley — first in the Class 3 District 16 championship game then in the Class 4 sectional round a year ago. Now, the Panthers have a shot to claim the first state trophy for the program since 1998.
“We’ve probably had the team that should have been in the quarterfinals four years in a row,” Park Hill South coach Joe Toigo said. “It’s nice to have gotten through that little problem. It’s a relief for the boys. I’ve been coach a long time; (it’s not as much of a relief for me).”
Anderson’s goal proved to be another breath of relief after a few struggles to finish early chances in recent weeks. The Panthers nursed the 1-0 lead until halftime before creating some separation.
Tyler Pisoni doubled the lead in the 46th minute heading home a cross from Ryan DiBernardo, giving Vergara no chance. Park Hill South junior defender Jacob Wicks sealed the win nine minutes later on another assist from Cavitt-Wells to a defender.
Cavitt-Wells, a returning all-state performer, continues to lead Park Hill South in assists.
“They were making really good runs for me to play them into space,” Cavitt Wells said. “They were talking and communicating, letting me know where they are making the run. I think everyone played great.”
Park Hill South senior goalkeeper Evan Morrow made five saves despite handing over duties to backup Noah Brizendine late in each half. In the first half, the senior all-stater left the pitch after a collision as he dove to grab the ball off of an Oak Park attacker.
The Northmen had their own goalkeeper issues after senior Jose Camberos picked up a knee injury late in the regular season, forcing Vergara into action.
Morrow has been instrumental this season in goal with the Panthers allowing just 10 goals in 27 matches. The backline, which returned Morrow and centerback Seth Hudson as all-staters from a year ago, allowed 13 goals in 26 matches last season.
“It’s always enjoyable to keep a clean sheet,” Anderson said. “Mostly, because teams can’t beat you if you keep a clean sheet, and you always put one in the back of the net.”
Park Hill South 3, Liberty 0
The Panthers advanced to the playoffs for a second straight year with a win against the Bluejays in the Class 4 District 15 championship Wednesday, Oct. 28 at Park Hill District Soccer Complex in Riverside, Mo. It was an identical scoreline to the championship game the previous year against Liberty.
Cavitt-Wells scored twice in the first half to get the scoring rolling and the backline kept a clean sheet, and the Panthers now have 19 on the season after the wins against Liberty and Oak Park.
Park Hill South junior Josh Wood sealed the win in the second half, putting home a loose ball in the box. The Blue Jays did not have a shot on goal until the 78th minute while Logan Galvin made 12 saves for Liberty. He could not stop Cavitt-Wells’ second goal — a free kick ripped from 30 yards out into the upper left hand corner of the net. Galvin at full stretch came up inches short in the 30th minute.
Oak Park 1, Park Hill 0
The Northmen scored the winner 10 minutes from the end of regulation to the take the Class 4 District 16 championship Wednesday, Oct. 29 at North Kansas City District Activities Complex in Kansas City, Mo.
Park Hill finished the season at 12-13 but just one win away from a playoff breakthrough.
In the district semifinal, coach Josh Marchbank said the Trojans played their best game of the season to down defending champion Staley 3-0. Andrew Rich opened the scoring off a Christian Fullmer assist, and Fullmer added two of his own to create the final margin.
Park Hill goalkeeper Peyton LaFerla recorded the shutout, one week after he nearly helped the Trojans to an upset of rival Park Hill South in the regular season finale — a 1-0 loss.