Down by a goal inside the final two minutes on Thursday, it looked like Kickapoo’s chances against Nixa were slipping away.
Then a booming 50-yard pass from midfield by senior Turner Adams to senior Hunter Durham gave the Chiefs new hope.
Durham headed home the pass from Adams to tie the game and force overtime, then scored the game-winner in the second overtime to complete the comeback as Kickapoo beat Nixa, 4-3, at Eagles Stadium in a showdown of two of the area’s best boys’ soccer teams.
“I would say this is one of the top five most emotional games I’ve ever played,” Durham said.
“After that goal to put it into overtime, I was almost in tears of joy.”
The Chiefs (6-0) had been on the attack inside the Eagles’ final third of the field for much of the final 10 minutes of regulation before Adams connected with Durham from midfield, as Durham out-jumped the defense and headed home the equalizer (3-all) with 1:09 left.
“The assist was just as good as the goal,” Durham said. “I give most of the glory to (Adams), I just had to put it away to tie the game.”
Durham’s game-winner came on a crossing pass from senior Taylor Pedigo with 1:40 left in the second overtime.
“That was a great cross from Pedigo,” Durham said. “I saw the ball come through and I had been missing my left-footed shot all night and I just had to focus and I put it in the back of the net.”
Nixa (6-1) took the lead 1-0 on an unassisted goal from senior Robert Neathery from just outside the penalty box barely 10 minutes into the match.
Kickapoo tied it at 1-all with an unassisted goal by senior Josh McCutcheon off a penalty kick inside the box five minutes later.
Nixa reclaimed the lead with a goal blasted past the keeper from senior Richie Fenwick off a volley from outside the penalty box, and led 2-1 at halftime.
Kickapoo senior Aaron Strunk tied the game at 2-all with a goal over the charging goalkeeper 9:26 into the second half, but Nixa grabbed the lead again just 18 seconds later on Neathery’s second goal.
Neathery recently set Nixa’s all-time record for points and now is four goals away from becoming Nixa’s all-time leading goal scorer.
The score remained 3-2 for the next 29 minutes of the second half, as Kickapoo had numerous chances to tie the score and Nixa had several opportunities to extend its lead.
“That hurt; I felt like we had them,” Neathery said. “But that stuff happens in soccer. We laid off a lot when we got up and we shouldn’t have done that.
“This is hard to take, but we’ll see them in sectionals.”
The game had a playoff feel to it from the opening minute .
“By far, this was the most intense game we’ve had up until this point,” Kickapoo coach Phil Hodge said.
“It’s a shame sometimes that teams have to lose in these situations.
“It feels good to walk away with a win, but Nixa’s a great team and they’re going to have a great season.”
The Eagles dominated ball possession in the early going before Kickapoo was able to slow the game down and keep possession for most of the second half and both overtimes.
“They out-possessed us,” Nixa coach Evan Palmer said. “We had too many unforced errors where we were giving the ball away too easy.
“Our game was possession and we didn’t show it tonight, but a lot of it was because of their pressure.”