Chanute Blue Comets head soccer coach Adam Wilcox grasped for the right postgame words.
He was in the middle of a four-second pause, searching for a way to explain what went right in his team’s 2-0 loss at home to the Fort Scott Tigers on Thursday evening.
“The first 20 minutes of the second half looked really nice,” Wilcox said. “We were able to pick up the intensity for quite a while the first bit of that half.”
“I’m trying to think of other stuff,” he said.
Wilcox was bewildered.
There had been zero trace of the Blue Comets squad that blanked Pittsburg, 1-0, less than four weeks ago. No signs of the second-half domination over Parsons from three weeks prior. No remnants of the offense that just hung 10 goals on Columbus in Chanute’s last match.
“If the other team has one or two kids, we just haven’t been able to figure out that a body has to be on those kids all the time,” Wilcox said.
This time, those two kids were Fort Scott seniors Elijah Self and Collin Thomas.
Thomas launched a rocket just inside the right post to put the Tigers up midway through the first half before Self doubled Fort Scott’s lead by tucking a shot right below the crossbar during a one-on-one with Chanute goalkeeper Drayton Cleaver.
The final score and the performance of Fort Scott’s star tandem won’t indicate it, but Cleaver was the most valuable player for the Blue Comets.
Before the Tigers notched their first score, Cleaver made a trio of saves that only lightning reflexes could explain to go along with a handful of other saves sprinkled throughout the first half. Even just a few games removed from his return from an ankle injury, the senior’s goalkeeping seemed to be a large part of the reason the Blue Comets still felt they had a chance to win if they came out of halftime with renewed energy.
“Drayton had some awesome saves,” Wilcox said. “His play always goes well, though. It looks like he’s almost back to full fitness.”
The Blue Comets poked and prodded the Fort Scott defense, countering the pressure points down the sidelines to get around the Tigers’ defensive sweeper. But, time after time, they came up short and looked mentally defeated after Fort Scott’s second goal.
For now, Wilcox will shoulder the blame.
But with four matches left in the regular season, his time for relying on thoughtful pauses over finding tangible solutions may be running out.
“We just have so much talent,” Wilcox said. “It’s just gotta be me figuring out how to get it out of them better.”