BONNER SPRINGS – They were more than aware of the perception surrounding their program.
Six state semifinal appearances in seven seasons for the Rose Hill boys soccer team. Four state championship matches that ended in losses. A defeat to Saturday’s championship opponent, Bishop Miege, in last year’s final.
Funny thing about perception, though. You can change it.
Chance Beckham’s strike from close range with 18:26 left in the first half was enough to lift Rose Hill (20-1) to its first Class 4-1A championship, with senior captain Alek Santo and the Rockets’ defense locking down the Miege attack for a 1-0 victory.
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“It is such a great feeling,” Santo said. “We worked really hard all season. That’s what got us here today.”
Years of heartbreak erased in 80 minutes.
Despite the shutout, the Rockets were far from convincing early in the match, struggling to maintain possession with Miege testing Geoffrey Stitcher’s goal early. Rose Hill settled in, however, and nearly took the lead after Chase Beckham’s header on the back post nearly found the net off midfielder Christian Helmke’s throw. The Rose Hill front man saw his effort pushed off frame courtesy of athletic save from Miege goalkeeper West Gahan.
A moment later, it was another Beckham that gave Rose Hill the lead.
After the Stags failed to clear Helmke’s corner, Beckham looped the ball over Gahan with his brother Chance firing it over the line to give Rose Hill an advantage.
“Chase scored,” said Chance Beckham, grinning. “He flipped it over the keeper’s head into the goal and I just followed through with it. They just credited me the goal. It was all Chase. I was just going to make sure it was going to go in the goal no matter what.”
Miege had its would have their chances to equalize in the second half, pressing the Rose Hill back line and nearly stealing a goal after Stitcher bobbled a corner with 31 minutes left in the match, but the sophomore goalkeeper recovered quickly to preserve the lead.
It was the Stags attack again creating chances just minutes later, when Eli Jurden’s set piece fell to striker Marcos-Souza Silva in space. But Stitcher saved Silva’s header on a full stretch just before it crossed the line.
From there the Rose Hill defense took control, with Santo heading a dominant display from the Rocket’s back line, denying a chasing Miege any chance at equalizing.
“I think I was on the field five seconds before the final whistle blew,” said Rose Hill coach Jerry Treat. “I wanted to hand out those winners medals myself. I’ve been handing out second-place medals for years. We played great. We just dug in.”
First half – Rose Hill: Chance Beckham (Chase Beckham) . Shots—Rose Hill 5-6—11, Miege 7-7—14. Saves—Rose Hill, Stitcher 6-5—11; Miege, Gajan 4-4—8.